Mark, Ryan, Kevin light up South Dakota

The South Dakota Circuit came alive yesterday for the International and Caribbean Race of Champions meet with Mark Vieira dominating the marquee Group Three category, copping two wins and a second place finish with his fire-spitting, Digicel sponsored Mazda RX7.

But ‘Sir’ Mark received stiff competition from Guyanese Andrew King and Jamaican Doug Gore, who won the first race of the category.

Sterling performances also came from Group Two fast driver Ryan Rahaman who racked up three wins. Even the rookies’ race showed that experience wasn’t everything with Ernesto Choo earning three chequered flags and cementing his name among the other high achievers at the South Dakota Circuit, known as the Mecca of motor sports in the Caribbean.

But the meet was not without incident as prior to the start of the competition, one of the rookie drivers making his way out of the pit lane for the Lap of Honour, lost control of his car and ran into a JR Burger stand, injuring three persons. One of the persons, an employee of JR Burger, had to be hospitalised with a broken shoulder among other injuries. The others were reportedly treated and sent home.

After the incident, the injured persons were transported to Georgetown by an ambulance which was on standby. With the ambulance away, the Canadian super bikers said that they would not race until the vehicle returned, in the event there was a ‘spill’, as is common in superbike races. This caused the programme to be delayed somewhat and shifts in the programme had to be made so as not to cause further delays.

Yesterday’s meet involved competitors from Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Suriname, French Guiana, Canada and the USA. The meet was the culmination of previous meets at the South Dakota Circuit and around the Caribbean, from which champions are determined. The official award ceremony will take place tonight and with it the announcement of the various champions.

In the first Group Two (fast) race, Rahaman fought off a brave attempt from Keith Evelyn and the two cars traded positions a few times.

For the shifter karts, Canadian Juliana Chiovotti also scored three wins from among her male competitors. She dominated the three races from start to finish and had no real threat from other competitors like Kevin and Christian Jeffrey.

The first Group Three race had to be restarted three times because of an incident involving Vieira’s car. But when the race finally started it was the Jamaican Doug Gore with his monster-motored Mitsubishi Evo that led the way from start to finish, staving off Vieira with his car’s abundant horsepower, said to be upwards of 400 HP. But Vieira’s light RX7 Mazda was quicker around the corners than Gore’s porkier Evo and this he used to his advantage in the next two races.

At the start of the last race in this category, Vieira’s car began to smoke and there was the fear that he wouldn’t be able to start, let alone finish the race. In the final race, Vieira’s opposition came from his compatriot Andrew King, who at one point appeared to be winning the race.

Digicel CEO Mark Linehan, who was at the races said: “Digicel is delighted with Mark Vieira’s performance today, Mark Vieira is one of Digicel’s most valuable partners and we are happy with the way our sponsorship and relationship are going with him. Mark Vieira is a tremendous talent and fierce competitor and is a further inspiration to our team.”

In the superbike category, Canadian former champion Kevin Graham won two of the three races, which had to be shortened due to the earlier delays. Graham, piloting a 2005 Ninja ZX10R, decked out in Sunburst livery, comfortably used his horsepower advantage, being the rider of the only litre (1000cc) bike on the grid. The Ninja ’10’, as it’s called, is known as an ill-mannered, untamed beast among superbikes and is made even more lethal by its light weight, weighing less than most 600 cc bikes.

In the first race, Graham’s compatriot, Canadian Craig Atkinson low-sided while manoeuvring turn one and had to retire from the race after he tried in vain to get his Yamaha R6 up and running. He was able to walk away from the crash but probably suffered bruises to the ego. In the last superbike race, Graham started a good five to seven seconds after the other competitors had already ‘grabbed a handful of throttle’ because of the fact that he had a horsepower advantage. He still was able to meander his way to second place to finish behind local ace Steven Vieira. Speaking to this newspaper after his victory, Vieira said that he pushed hard to win the race on his stock 03 Yamaha R6 and was happy to beat the dominant Graham, even if it was for one race. Throughout all his races, Vieira was carrying high corner speeds at heart-stopping lean angles and looked the part of Suzuki rider John Hopkins of Moto GP fame, known for his elbow-dragging cornering.

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