By Neto Baptiste
Former president of the Antigua and Barbuda Drag Racing Association (ABDRA), Lisa Abraham, has taken the country’s sports minister Daryll Matthew to task over his approach to alleged safety breaches at the North Sound International Raceway.
Abraham, while speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, addressed the minister’s concerns and what she believes is a one-sided approach to the issue.
“The minister approached the drag racing about safety issues because the information he had brought is that we are not following FIA safety guidelines, so I wonder who told him that. Now, if he came to the drag racing association with the guidelines that we are not following, it would make more sense to us the members of the drag racing association with his approach, as opposed to coming to us with an approach that we know is coming from a direction,” she said.
During a recent interview, Matthew pointed to alleged breaches of safety at the track, and added he had been sent “evidence” of the said breaches. The minister had also previously met with the association in an attempt to address the concerns.
Admitting that improvements could be made at the government owned facility, Abraham said that Jean Todt, president of the world’s governing body for motor sports, the FIA, visited the site some years ago and gave a good review of safety precautions taken at the that time.
“President Todt, who is head of the FIA, on his visit to Antigua some years ago, came to the same drag strip — and I could read the FIA report that was published on their website from his visit to Antigua, giving kudos to the work that was done at North Sound International Raceway; and back then we were nowhere close to where we are now, we are way further now,” the former head said.
“What I would say is that yes, there are safety things that still need to be implemented at the track and one of the suggestions that Jean Todt made when he was here was that we could use those same tyres — and he even drew a diagram to show how we could stagger them, strap them and fill them with sand — and they could work as our barriers in the meantime,” she added.
The former drag racing boss said Todt, at the time, acknowledged the financial commitment it would have taken to bring the facility up to international standards.
“He recognised that we are a small country with under 100,000 people and what it would take financially for us to come up to international standards, and he knows we couldn’t afford it. So he gave us some guidelines that we could have put in place in the interim and those still need to be implemented,” she said. The drag racing association, Antigua Pro Racing Ltd, and the Ministry of Sports are slated to meet in an effort to rectify concerns over the facility and its safety.