By Neto Baptiste
The sport of drag racing is in a much better place today than it was in the past.
This is according to one executive member and veteran driver and race car owner, Paul “Pablo” Ryan, who believes that although there are some aspects of the North Sound Race Way that are still in need of upgrading, the facility provides a level of security not found anywhere else on the island.
“Where we are today is a far cry from racing on the streets back in the day. When we got that track we had to straighten it, and that was the first thing. We have improved the lighting over a period of time, there are track marshals who make sure you have on your safety gear before you enter the race track and you must have on long pants, helmet must be secured. We are checking the helmets, checking the batteries location and so forth,” he said.
“What we can benefit from now to make it even safer is side rails going along the sides. We have had maybe one or two incidents where cars would have gone off the sides but the side rails would keep your car on the track and prevent it from going off,” he added.
His statement comes after fresh concerns were raised over safety protocols at the facility, following the death of driver and racing fanatic, Marcus Williams, in March this year.
Although the man’s death is not linked to any breach of security protocols at the race track, it resurrected debate over the overall safety of the sport.
According to Ryan, however, all drivers utilising the strip must adhere to the protocols that have been put in place.
“We encourage drivers to become members of the association so they could know all the rules and regulations. We do have a Tuesday night event that is opened to the public and all of those persons must abide by the same rules and regulations. Nobody can go down the track without a helmet and the problem we have is that although we insists on all of these safety rules at the North Sound facility, persons are still going to a privately owned track and not abiding by those safety rules which sometimes put a damper on the whole sport of drag racing so we would want to see uniformity in that, if these are the regulations that it goes for both,” he said.
One other veteran race car driver and mechanic, Anthony “Spanky” Spencer, explained how the current drag racing association came into being and that it evolved into what it is today, because of concerns that better measured needed to be in place to protect drivers.
“Things were happening at John I [reacetrack] that we thought the drivers were not being treated fairly so we practically came together to form a union and it morphed into an association, but it was more of a drivers’ representation or union, and the aspects of the track there not being safe and it was private, it all morphed into this new association and new way of thinking to obtain something that we could put together and have all the rules abided by because we didn’t see it happening over there really,” he said.
Drag racing has long been a popular spectator sport here in Antigua, attracting thousands of fans and car enthusiasts per event.