Calling it “one of the most spectacular events in The Bahamas calendar season,” Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe officially announced the November 24 launch of Bahamas Speed Week at a press conference at the British Colonial Hilton today.
“When organizers unveiled plans last year for what was called Bahamas Speed Week Revival after a 50-year hiatus, there were folks who never thought it could be pulled off,” said Wilchcombe. “Fortunately, for The Bahamas, there was a team who never doubted that it could become reality. It is my understanding that they worked tirelessly for nearly two years and their work paid off. For several days in late November and early December, Nassau was abuzz with the glamour of classic and antique race cars and their often famous drivers. It was a wonderful boost for tourism. The media was captured by the event with its patron, the legendary Sir Stirling Moss, returning to Nassau after all these years. The international coverage of events, cars and stars generated unprecedented exposure for The Bahamas, even a billboard in New York’s Time Square.”
Now, said Wilchcombe, those who proved it could be done one time were “out to prove it could be done even better the second time around. I offer my congratulations to the organizers of Bahamas Speed Week and pledge our Ministry’s support to ensure that this is not only a great social and racing event set against the beautiful natural backdrop of Nassau harbor, but becomes one of the most spectacular events in the annual Bahamas calendar.”
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According to Bahamas Speed Week President Jimmie Lowe, the team has made numerous improvements for this year’s series.
“We had a super event in many ways last year, probably more successful than any of us had dared to hope it would be, but we recognized that we needed to get more local involvement,” said Lowe. “So the most important change we are making is to ensure that the general public is fully aware that this is a Bahamian event on Bahamian territory at Arawak Cay, providing Bahamian jobs, opportunities and great family recreation and entertainment. We plan to make this one of the most popular activities for locals to enjoy, whether participating in go-karting, sitting at one of the restaurants at Arawak Cay, watching the time trials from the bleachers or participating as a driver. In fact, we already have more local entries four months out than we had during the start of the races last year, and we are excited about the increased involvement of the vendors at Arawak Cay with the redesign of the circuit.”
Increasing local interest will also be easy, said Low, for two other reasons. Ticket prices have been reduced and simplified – 30$ for general admission – and the schedule calls for more go-karting.
“Everyone loves go-karting,” said Lowe. It’s how most race drivers get their start but there is something about karting that stays in everyone’s heart regardless of age. So we’ve increased that portion of Speed Week. But everything is bigger, better, faster, more ambitious this year, starting with the schedule. We are kicking off Speed Week 2012 with a concert Saturday evening, November 24. The next day will be the Miss Bahamas Speed Week pageant. On Monday and Tuesday, drivers who are coming in from abroad have two days to explore the Family Islands, go fishing, enjoy New Providence or just relax. Then on the Wednesday, we have the official opening followed by a series of activities over the next few days – 007 Island Tour, Concourse d’Elegance, time trials, hill climb and ending with the Pictet Gala Ball and Auction of Promises with funds raised going to Bahamian charities.”
According to David McLaughlin, Speed Week Event Director and professional organizer who has dedicated more than two years to the creation and success of Bahamas Speed Week, there are already positive signs.
“The response has been very encouraging,” said McLaughlin. “By the first week in August, we had more cars registered than we had during Speed Week last year. That speaks volumes for the reputation of the event. We are seeing an increase in the variety of cars, which will be especially interesting for spectators because there are race cars that we believe have never been seen in Nassau before. We are also seeing a significant rise in the quality of the entry with a number of rare and exotic Ferraris being joined by racing Jaguars and Aston Martins.” Cars shipped in from Europe make the transatlantic crossing via a cargo ship while those being brought in from the U.S. are coming in this year via the Mailboat.
Anticipating larger crowds and more race cars, organizers increased the size of the car paddock and the Paddock Club. The race car tent is now 26,400 square feet or more than half the size of an American football field and the Paddock Club for drivers and those who pay for daily memberships in an expanded 100,000 square feet.
Speed Week Director of Communications Brendan Foulkes said tickets will be on sale at various outlets by September 1.
“We are just making the official announcement today and we have already fielded dozens, if not hundreds of call,” said Foulkes. “Having the sign on our office at Parliament and Shirley Streets has created visibility. Plus we have been sending out newsletter and updates and the foreign media is expressing a great interest. We hope that Speed Week 2012 will be as strong a boon for local business and family entertainment as it is for tourism.
For information, www.bahamaslocal.com/speedweek or call (242) - 601-5420