Government pledges support for Drag Wars

Landmark Events­­, St Lucia’s Premiere Design and Production Company together with Absolute Promotions and T&T’s AutoSport Promotions Limited held what turned out to be the biggest International Drag Racing Event in the English-speaking Caribbean!

Drag Wars: The Redemption got off to a great start on Saturday April 14th 2012 at ‘The Base’ in Vieux Fort. The event was the third edition of an intensely attractive racing contest which has evolved into a popular motorsport fixture for local and regional enthusiasts. According to the organizers, this was the largest gathering of race cars ever seen in St. Lucia.

Fashioned after the ever popular Fast and Furious franchise, over 75 foreign competitors signed up to do battle, only to claim bragging rights if not take home the winning trophies for the best time over the quarter-mile-long track on the old Beanfield Airstrip. Racing enthusiasts from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and St. Lucia were all pumped up and geared to compete in the 14 to 8 seconds category.

With spectator participation in the region of 7 000 persons, a diverse schedule of sporting and social activities was designed to involve a broad cross-section of the national community including patrons, vendors, drivers, sponsors and entertainers. In addition, the presence of former Formula 1 driver David Vissard sought to propel Drag Wars: The Redemption into the upper echelon of regional racing.

With two previous events staged in 2009 and 2010, under the Absolute Promotions banner, the Drag Strip being used has already been acclaimed as one of the best locations for Drag Racing, and possibly the top quarter-mile strip that is not a dedicated racing location in the West Indies.

Standards will be held to the extreme as Landmark Events are renowned for promoting some of the best events in this part of the Caribbean. This is their first venture into the Sport of Drag Racing but those in the know would have already experienced their annual and very prestigious St Lucia Jazz Festival.

The St Lucia government will be taking a serious look at this event, so says the Minister for Tourism, Lorne Theophilus who was present on the final day of the event accompanied by his wife. According to Theophilus, who admitted to be a die-hard racing fan, his ministry is already looking at the possibility of determining whether there is the potential for the location to be permanently converted into an International Racing facility. Being in a nodal position with the Sea Port, Airport and Hotels being the major factors for attracting overseas /International spectators, the seemingly excited minister explained to the STAR that this can be an easy sell for focusing on a new niche market for Sports Tourism.

“We are interested in supporting initiative such as this because the Government has plans for Vieux Fort by way of Sports Tourism. This is an avenue that has not been fully explored and you would have heard during our campaign that there are a few plans we have for Vieux Fort and supporting this event is just step one. There are bigger plans in terms of physical development in Vieux Fort which will show that we are serious about Sports Tourism so it’s no longer a lip service that has happened for so many years… Cabinet gave support so as to get vehicles in and out of St Lucia conveniently if not, duties would have had to be paid and that would render the high costs for the participating countries; so government gave their support because this is a growing initiative for Sports Tourism.” said Theophilus.

He further explained that his Government will support any initiative that they consider to be beneficial to the people of St Lucia. Already he said, meetings have been and will continue to be held with organizers of events such as this to pave the way for another huge promotional aspect of Tourism that is as big as the St Lucia Jazz Festival.

Production Manager for Landmark Events, Ayodele Andrew says this event was in the making since November last year. She says the company began talks with Neil Beepat as they attempted to do research about the possibility of hosting the event since Landmark Events had never before undertaken such an initiative.

“We got a lot of support from the racers who really wanted us to do it – we contracted a racing consultant from Trinidad to assist us and it has been a lot of leg-work from since November to get this off the ground,” said Andrew.

She went on: “We realized that this was very expensive to produce something like this so we approached the government to give us support especially as you see this venue being set up with lighting, infrastructure and tents. We brought in over 65 cars here and there has been lots of meetings with WASCO, SLASPA, Communication and Works, Fire and Ambulance and many other stake holders to get this off the ground.”

Although she admitted an estimated attendance of over 7 000 persons, Andrew added that monies collected through tickets in no way can defray the costs attached to holding this event; “Operating this event is at a deficit for us as a company – we are doing it and hoping next time around we can make it up.”

Responding to the possibility of having another event in the near future, Andrew said: “If we have the facilities and the financing, it can be done but racing is a lot of money – some of the guys here paid nearly US$100 000 just to get their cars here but it brings much benefit to the country. Many Hotel rooms are completely booked in the south of the country, car rentals, restaurants and all the service charge going back to the government. An estimated 1.5 million dollars has been injected into the economy just for having this event.”

The fastest time in the 14 second category was won by Dwight Charlery from St Lucia; 13 second category was won by Jason Ollivierre from St Vincent; 12 second category was won by Dexter Gelizeau from St Vincent; 11 second category was won by Randy Mohammed from Trinidad and Tobago; 10 second category was won by Gary Smith from Trinidad and Tobago; 9 second category was won by Wazeer Khan from Trinidad and Tobago and the 8 second category was won by Hollister Edards from Trinidad and Tobago.

Although St Lucian race car driver Risky did not compete in the event, he did manage to win all of his exhibition races to perhaps own himself some bragging rights and bring honor to his St Lucian fans.

The event was held over a three-day period with the 13th being a CAR SHOW event and the 14th and 15th being actual RACE DAYS. The event which was heavily guarded by the Royal St Lucia Police Force was said to be injury free.

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