Team Barbados wins inaugural ROC Caribbean

Team Barbados wins inaugural ROC Caribbean

On a landmark weekend for regional motor sport, in which some of the Caribbean's best drivers are enjoying a chance to mix with champions from around the world, the home team of Rhett Watson and Dane Skeete won the inaugural ROC Caribbean at Bushy Park Barbados today (Saturday), just hours after fighting their way to a place in the semi-finals of the ROC Nations Cup.

Watson and Skeete beat Team Jamaica - Doug Gore and Jeff Panton - in the final of ROC Caribbean, having already seen off Team Guyana and Team Trinidad & Tobago. Watson and Gore go through to contest the individual Race Of Champions at Bushy Park tomorrow as the fastest driver in the ROC Caribbean heats from Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean, so there is still tremendous regional interest in the competition.

After a presentation parade, during which the four regional teams were presented to the crowd, the competition got under way mid-afternoon. Jamaica won the first of 12 heats, as Gore beat Skeete in a head-to head in the Suzuki-powered Radicals, then Panton beat Watson in the ROC car, a big disappointment for Barbados fans. Guyana was looking a serious challenger, too, Kristian Jeffrey defeating Trinidad & Tobago's Franklyn Boodram in the Radicals, while Mark Vieira added to the total with victory over David Coelho in the ROC car face-off.

In the second sequence of heats, Gore and Panton maintained the pressure with wins over Guyana's Jeffrey (ROC car) and Vieira (Radical) respectively, to bring their points total to four, an almost certain ticket to the final. Skeete and Watson returned to their winning ways from the earlier Nations Cup, defeating Boodram (ROC car) and Coelho (Radical) respectively, to put two points on the board and draw level with Guyana.

As the final sequence of four heats got under way, Skeete and Watson brought the home team's total to four, Skeete defeating Jeffrey, whose appeared to be suffering gear-changing issues with his Radical, while Watson beat an unusually uncompetitive Vieira in the ROC car. By now it was certain that Barbados and Jamaica would go through to the final, but Gore emphasised the point with victory over Boodram in the Radicals, while Coelho rescued Trinidad & Tobago's day by claiming its one win of the competition, after a spin by Panton in the ROC car and a five-second penalty cost more time than the Jamaican could recover.

After a short break, it was time for the moment of truth: which of the region's motor sport communities would come out on top. Gore and Skeete faced off first, the young Barbadian defeating the experienced Jamaican in heat one. In the earlier Nations Cup semi-finals and final, each had gone to a best-of-three run-off . . . but it was not to be the case this time round: to a resounding cheer from the hometown fans, Watson came home ahead of Panton to settle the matter decisively.

After the presentation, Watson said: "One word to describe it all is incredible. To share the same space as some of these international drivers and beat a few of them was fantastic. The highlight was beating Kurt Busch in the first race, then securing ROC Caribbean for Barbados with Dane. Tomorrow it is all out!"

Gore said: "I wasn't so fast in the practice sessions, but I know that I am always much faster in the race setting. I saw Dane and Rhett winning some races against the best today, so we knew they would be sharp for ROC Caribbean but it was great to represent Jamaica and be in the finals. I'm hoping that with some practice in the morning I will have a good outing representing the Caribbean in the ROC."

Looking back on the day, Skeete said: "The best experience was doing the first race with Dad in the car, as I had no idea he was coming. Beating Susie Wolff in the Audi R8 she is more familiar with was another highlight for sure; I almost ran off when I realised I had beat her. The camaraderie with Rhett was great, as we supported each other . . . and it was awesome to hit the ROC Caribbean flat out and take the