Ryan: Drag racing could be huge tourism product but hampered by bureaucracy, high travel cost

Ambassador Paul Ryan.
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By Neto Baptiste

Bureaucracy and the high cost of moving cars between countries are two of the major obstacles faced by the Antigua and Barbuda Drag Racing Association (ABDRA) in its push to market the sport as a potential tourist attraction.

This was revealed by one member of the association’s executive body and a stalwart race car driver, Ambassador Paul Ryan while recently speaking on Observer Radio’s Good Morning Jojo Sports Show.

“One of the major challenges we have in the Caribbean region because we do try to bring drag racers from around the region, is the cost of transportation and the bureaucracy we have with the ports, and once we can get by that and reduce the cost of transportation regionally, I think that would be a major plus,” he said.

Ryan, owner of Antigua Motors Ltd, went on to add that several events hosted in the past would have attracted a multitude of racers and racing enthusiasts to the country’s shores.

“We have had events here that have drawn people from as far away as Jamaica and the United States. Once we plan a big event, an international event where we have overseas drag racers in, it is what you may call sell-off and there is no space on the aircrafts to bring people to Antigua to watch the event. We are on Facebook, we are on several websites and we are doing the marketing throughout the region which is what draws the crowds to Antigua,” he said. 

One other veteran drag racer, Anthony “Spanky” Spencer, supported Ryan’s claims, adding that the association had long tried to move in that direction but were plagued by high transportation cost.

“Since 2003, we have been planning this sports tourism move in conjunction with a company called Caribbean Motor Sports and we did have a comprehensive plan for the region. I remember we started off with bringing Trinidad here and right after that, in 2004, we ended up in Grenada and the plan was for us to go from island to island but for some reason things fell apart because of cost and up to now we have not recovered from that,” he said.

Recent public debates over the control of the sport here has raised questions regarding safety protocols in place at the North Sound Raceway.

Antigua Pro Racing Ltd, through its president Carlo Falcone, is reportedly on the only FIA recognised governing body for motor sports in Antigua while the drag racing association have said they are regulated by the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).

Both the Antigua Pro Racing Ltd and the drag racing association are set to meet this week in an effort to find common ground.

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