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Bahamas Speed Week - Part I

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The Bahamas Speed Week was a sports car race held in Nassau, Bahamas from 1954 to 1966. The first race was held on old airport runways in Nassau. Masten Gregory in a Ferrari won that event. Subsequent winners include Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Innes Ireland, Roger Penske, Hap Sharp and A.J. Foyt. Due to needed track repairs and the lack of additional funding by the Bahamian government, as well as competition from more races running in December, the race discontinued in 1966.

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An ambitious group of dedicated enthusiasts longed for the days of racing on the island and the Minister of Tourism longed for the influx of spectator dollars. This group, headed by David McLaughlin, established the inaugural Speed Week Revival in 2011. Positive reviews by entrants, officials, spectators and merchants prompted plans for an annual event. The big news is the announcement by The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, His Excellency, Sir Arthur Foulkes, that a purpose-built Performance Race Circuit is planned for the site of the original Oakes Field track.

Bahamas Speed Week Revival 2013 was conducted in early December and attracted about 35 cars to the event. Familiar names such as Audi, Ferrari, Jaguar and Corvette were there to compete. Unfamiliar names such as OM, Maserati, TVR and Caterham were also there. We will take a closer look at the cars in Part II.

Nassau is pretty close to paradise. Legendary Bahamian hospitality, emerald blue waters, elegant hotels, historic sites, temperature range of 74 at night to 84 during the day, fresh fish, cool breezes, cold beer, demon rum and powder sand beaches beckon tourist from around the world. Mammoth cruise ships slip into dock near downtown Nassau and the passengers disembark to spend money at The Straw Market and local watering holes.

While there were no actual “races” during Bahamas Speed Week, there was a welcome reception at The Government House, an island tour, a Concours d’Elegance at the Lyford Cay Club, car show on “Fish Fry” restaurant row and a party at John Watling’s Rum Distillery. There was also plenty of time for structured high-speed touring around Arawak Cay and a hillclimb from the Arawak Cay beach up to Fort Charlotte. I was treated to a very rapid hillclimb ride with Derek Bell at the wheel of an Audi R8 Spyder. Derek is a former F1 Ferrari driver, five-time winner of the LeMans 24-hour and a three-time winner of the 24-hours of Daytona.

When you go to Nassau, I recommend The Poop Deck (East or West) for fine casual dining on the waterfront and the Anchorage Restaurant in the Fish Fry area. The Graycliff is an eating, drinking and sleeping conglomerate located in an 18th century facility near downtown Nassau. Graycliff has its own chocolate factory, cigar factory, pizza place, Brazilian steak house, gourmet dining and one of the largest wine cellars in the world. Souvenir hunting is best at the ship-side Straw Market.

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