Nothing could be nicer, in the midst of a frigid winter, than to fly south to Nassau, enjoy a welcoming planters punch, then watch several days of great road racing. That's the way it was, from 1954 to 1966. And hopefully that's the way it will be as the Nassau Speed Week (renamed Bahamas Speed Week) is being revived in 2011: November 30 to December 04.
For the racing fraternity, the original Speed Week combined a vacation with a chance to have fun. There were no championships involved, no fight for points, just a chance to duel it out on an airport circuit. Cars and drivers came from Europe, from the US, and from Canada. The parties, it was said, were as good as the races. If you couldn't beat the guy into the first corner, well, heck, you could always toss him into the pool. And nobody cared.
Decades have passed since those halcyon years but the combined efforts of racing enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic plus the willing Nassau tourist folks are turning back the clock, then giving it a special twist. These will not be vintage track races. The now-international airport can't be closed and there are no Bahamas race tracks. Instead, a temporary street circuit has been set up for timed sprints by vintage sports racers. Each contestant will be allowed three laps, in an effort to set best time. Running next to the sea, the track nicely combines a fast straight with several turns, assuring that a combination of skill and power is needed to win.
You, as a spectator, might miss the fender-to-fender racing that comes with vintage events but that shouldn't deter you from attending. There's something special about watching vintage cars being driven at speed, including the sounds of once-great engines. For the drivers it's an opportunity to test the cars and themselves without taking unnecessary risks. Nobody really cares who wins, except the winner. The same applies to hillclimbs and amazingly (to me at least) Bahamas Speed Week includes a hillclimb! I'd worked on Grand Bahama Island as a young guy, attended the 1963 Nassau Speed Week, and visited Nassau since, but never saw anything taller than an anthill. But apparently the Fort Charlotte road is vertical enough and long enough for challenging timed runs.
In some respects the Bahamas Speed Week is aimed more at owner/drivers than we humble spectators. They'll be feted and entertained, and led on a tour to an island paradise owned by Sir Sean Connery. Considering all the great cars that James Bond drove it would seem appropriate that he might be in attendance, but the organisers have made no promises.
For an amusing aside to our trip to the original Nassau Speed Week, click onto this Constellation airliner blog.