Esuf, Wood rule
Suleman Esuf and Ryan Wood were crowned Suzuki Challenge Summer Series SR3 Cup and Swift Cup Champion respectively, as the curtain came down on the second Summer Series. Racing under floodlights, occasional showers and the pressure of four races in one day made last Sunday’s Day/Night Race Meet at Bushy Park, St Philip a fitting conclusion to this season’s events, with the Winter Cup to follow early next year.
Josh Read, the longest-standing Swift Cup racer not to have won, finally did so in the penultimate race of the season, then collected a second award in the day’s final race. His fastest lap of 1m 16.346s was the best Swift Cup lap of the Summer Series and won him a Radical Experience at Bushy Park, the same prize also going to champion Wood.
While Esuf led the SR3 Cup for Suzuki-powered Radical SR3 sports-racers heading into the final round, his advantage over Stuart Maloney was just nine points, with David Simpson and Sean Maloney also within 20 points of his total. With a potential 100 points on offer from the day’s four races, there was all to drive for.
In qualifying, Mark Maloney claimed his first pole position of the Summer Series, by just 29/1000ths of a second, with Simpson and Stuart Maloney on row two, ahead of Esuf and newcomer Timothy Stewart of Jamaica, who was also racing in the Swift Cup. Pole-sitter Maloney enjoyed a lights-to-flag victory, with brother Sean in close company throughout. Esuf grabbed third after contact between Simpson and Stuart Maloney, the latter retiring shortly after, and was then promoted to second when Sean Maloney was awarded a 5sec jump-start penalty.
Now leading the standings by 23 points from new second-place runner Sean Maloney, Esuf started race two on the front row, alongside pole-sitter Stewart, the grid based on the reverse of Qualifying. The start was delayed briefly, when Stuart Maloney’s car developed an issue on the grid. As the wrecker removed it, brother Sean offered his car to Stuart, so he could pursue his title aspirations, although he had to start at the back, as it was not the car in which he had qualified. Mark Maloney was also a non-starter.
In a race of mixed fortunes, Esuf led for the first three laps, before locking up into the Dipper – while worrying whether to fit wet or dry tyres before the race, the team had forgotten to adjust the brake bias. This handed the lead to Simpson, although he then spun, Stuart Maloney taking the chequered flag, with Esuf second and Stewart third.
Esuf was now only 20 points ahead in the standings, with Stuart Maloney back up to second, but would start race three from pole, the grid based on points scored in the earlier encounters. Esuf extended an early lead, chased by Mark and Stuart Maloney. Despite the more experienced Maloney brothers closing on Esuf as the race wore on, the order remained the same, as Esuf kept his cool for his second victory of the Summer Series, with his lead extended to 30 points, giving him the title with one race to go.
As it transpired, the SR3 Cup runners elected not to race again.
A day later, admitting that the reality of winning the title still hadn’t sunk in, Esuf said: “Words can’t express how unreal the feeling is. To think a year ago I didn’t have plans on racing. But I’ve learnt God has a plan for our lives, we may think we know where we want to go but ultimately He drives us where we should be.”
In the Swift Cup, Wood (Team Digicel) started the day in a stronger position than Esuf, with a 26- point advantage over Jason Parkinson (Team Infra Rentals/Sol); Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance) and Kenrick Husbands (Team Williams Industries) were the only others with a mathematical chance of taking the title.
Kyle Catwell (Team ICBL), who had missed the previous round, claimed his first pole position, with Martinique’s Pascal Calvel (Team Suzuki) enjoying a personal best in second, ahead of Daryl Clarke (Team Digicel) and Husbands. Wood was fifth, with Read and Parkinson side-by-side, seventh and eighth – for all three, their worst grid position of the Summer Series.
Catwell made an excellent getaway, with Clarke in close formation, these two the only drivers in the field to maintain position race-long. Clarke rejoined in second after taking the Joker on lap five, Catwell doing the same on the final lap, to claim his second Swift Cup victory and propel himself from 10th to fifth in the standings. Wood and Read were enjoying a decent battle until Read out-braked himself at the Dipper, with Calvel and Parkinson also in the mix, until Calvel and Wood ran wide, giving Parkinson third place and narrowing the gap to series leader Wood by three points.
With the second grid based on qualifying times reversed, Parkinson would start ahead of Wood, with the chance to close the gap further. Pole man Barry Gale (Team Gale’s Agro Products), Carlos Edwards (Team Rock Hard Cement), Read and Parkinson were the early front-runners, Wood joining in within a couple of laps. After Gale ran wide exiting the Hammer, Read briefly snatched the lead on lap six, but then took his Joker lap, leaving Gale ahead, pursued by Wood, who had taken his Joker early. Gale did so on the penultimate lap, slipping back to fourth, behind Wood, Read and Parkinson, with Wood now 33 points ahead in the title chase, and a maximum of 50 still on offer.
From a grid based on points scored so far, the first race in darkness was a cracker. Pole-sitter Wood, Catwell, Read and Parkinson went at it hammer and tongs, Read taking the lead on lap four, leaving Wood under pressure from Catwell and Parkinson. All the front-runners took late Jokers, Read finally claiming a well-deserved Swift Cup win, with second place for Wood good enough to clinch the Summer Series title, and Catwell third. Afterwards, Read said: “I’m really happy with that. Let’s see if we can carry the momentum through to the final, and maybe get two wins.” And he very nearly did so.
The grid positions for race four were drawn from a hat in championship order, Wood pulling first, but ending up 10th on the grid, while Clarke and Calvel were on the front row. These two battled for the lead early on, while Parkinson, who started sixth, and Wood took lap one Jokers. Read shadowed the battling duo, Calvel almost losing second when he ran wide at the Ws, but he held on until lap four, when Read took over. Clarke and Read took their Jokers together on the final lap, Read almost out-gunning Clarke to the line, the winning margin just 48/1000ths. Victory moved Clarke to fifth in the standings, ahead of Catwell, who had run at the tail-end of the field all race, while Calvel’s third place was his second podium finish.
Despite his lowly grid position for the final round, Wood would eventually finish seventh, securing the 2016 Swift Cup Summer Series title. Afterwards, he said: “A good day of racing, a fantastic day of racing! I can’t complain at all. The Team Digicel Suzuki Swift has worked brilliantly and the series has been so competitive and so much fun.” (PR)