Our intrepid editor recently ventured south to sunnier climes to check out the high octane events at Bahamas Speed Week.
Read on for a report from the front lines:
In our position here at the helm of DRIVEN, we are frequently called on to perform unpleasant tasks.
The second annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival in beautiful Nassau Paradise Island
Covering the second annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival in Nassau Paradise Island recently wasn’t one of them.
Having read about the $100 million worth of magnificent machines that graced the paddock at last year’s inaugural event, we assumed we’d pretty much be looking at everything from behind a velvet rope.
Sir Stirling Moss in his O.S.C.A.; click to enlarge
In fact, we were able to get up close and personal not only with a bevy of beauteous classic Ferraris, Jaguars and more exotic makes, but also the exalted Sir Stirling Moss, a living legend in the motoring world.
And we had no complaints about the perfect weather, either.
The exalted Sir Stirling Moss, a living legend in the motoring world
The vintage sports car rally and attendant series of events is a stylish resurrection of the original that took place from 1954 to 1966 and featured many of the great racing drivers of the period.
It got off to an auspicious start in ’54, when famed Spanish racing driver Alfonso de Portago and American Masten Gregory—known as the “Kansas City Flash”— won the Bahamas Automobile Cup and the Nassau Trophy Race respectively, piloting a pair of Ferraris.
The original Bahamas Speed Week; click to enlarge
Ferraris dominated the field for the next two years, until none other than Stirling Moss won the Nassau Trophy Race driving a Maserati 300S.
The next year, he came back and did it again in a Ferrari 290MM.
As much about being a good sportsman as taking home a trophy
Back in those days, the cars he drove were borrowed from “gentleman racers” with plenty of dash and cash if not quite the skills of a professional.
The racing, as it is today, was a gentlemanly pursuit, however, as much about having fun and being a good sportsman as actually taking home a trophy.
A Mini Cooper, DeLorean, Ferrari 330 and Mercedes-Benz 190 SL get ready to race; click to enlarge
That was very much in evidence at this year’s event, with the drivers enjoying it every bit as much as the spectators, with whom they were more than happy to interact.
Unbelievably blue ocean, swaying palms and acres of fine white sand
Nassau Paradise Island, as the name suggests, is in many ways a celebration of the good life, in a setting of incredible natural beauty, with unbelievably blue ocean, swaying palms and acres of fine white sand all around.
Beautiful cars deserve a beautiful setting, though most racetracks are not chosen for their picturesque qualities.
Bahamas Speed Week originally started on a disused airfield, but these days the cars zoom around specially created tracks in some of Nassau’s most attractive locales.
1967 Ford Mustang Fastback; click to enlarge
Over 40 alluring vehicles, dating from 1952 to today, participated in the event, many of them shipped over from the UK for the occasion.
The spectacular machines making the scene included a 1952 Jaguar C-Type, a 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC and a 1965 Aston Martin DB5.
A 1952 Jaguar C-Type, a 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC and a 1965 Aston Martin DB5
These days, Sir Stirling drives one of his own cars—a rare O.S.C.A. FS372 DS from 1956.
O.S.C.A. was established in Italy in 1947 by members of the Maserati clan and survived only until 1967, making sightings of them something special indeed.
Sir Stirling Moss’ O.S.C.A.; click to enlarge
With Sir Stirling Moss behind the wheel, it’s truly a sight to behold.
In 1954, he won the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring in an O.S.C.A. MT4, so there’s plenty of history behind his choice of wheels.
Sir Stirling brought his rare O.S.C.A. FS372 DS from 1956
And the fact that he chose to bring it to the Bahamas shows in how high a regard he holds the Revival.
There are a range of tickets available for the Speed Week events, but if you really want to get up close and personal with the legends, we recommend you spring for one that gives you access to the paddock, and if you’re really feeling flush, the VIP tent as well.
A 2008 Dodge Viper, 1958 Devin SS and 1959 Cooper Monaco at rest in the paddock; click to enlarge
The atmosphere in the latter was so congenial that drivers were not only allowing their precious metal to be lovingly fondled, but in many cases they graciously offered genuine enthusiasts to try out the driver’s seat, and a few lucky folk even got to go for a spin around the track.
1950s Ferraris roar to life right in front of you and race around a track
It’s one thing to read about a classic 1950s Ferrari.
Seeing one in person, even behind a velvet rope, is another.
But having it—make that more than one—roar to life right in front of you and race around a track is an altogether more exalted experience.
1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder; click to enlarge
Throw in the beautiful beachfront setting of Nassau Paradise Island and the general air of gracious living that pervades the place, and you’re getting into once-in-a-lifetime territory.
Picking a favorite car from the lineup is a daunting task with so much marvelous machinery to drool over.
We were transfixed by the bright yellow 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC
Since you asked, however, we were transfixed by the bright yellow 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC that took pride of place next to Sir Stirling’s O.S.C.A. in the paddock.
At the wheel, driver David Cottingham took first place in the Fort Charlotte Hillclimb in the Race Cars 1954 to 1966 category.
1957 Ferrari 500 TRC; click to enlarge
At auction, similar models can go for $3 to $4 million, so taking one around a track at high speed is not to be taken lightly, not to mention something you don’t see every day.
At auction, similar models can go for $3 to $4 million
Ralph Lauren has one just like it as well.
And where was Ralph, by the way?
Bahamas Speed Week seems like just the sort of thing he would get a kick out of, and no doubt mimic in one of his highly stylized ad campaigns.
Jonathan Turner at the wheel of his 1952 Jaguar C-Type; click to enlarge
As dedicated as he is to deifying the British gentleman sportsman, he could have found many authentic examples in the Speed Week paddock.
We’re thinking in particular of the UK’s Jonathan Turner, looking extremely dashing at the wheel of his 1952 Jaguar C-Type.
The UK’s Jonathan Turner was dashing at the wheel of his 1952 Jaguar C-Type
The only other time we’ve seen a C-Type “in the flesh” was at a big time Jaguar event in New York City, where several large, imposing men made sure no one got close enough to so much as breathe on it.
Of course, maybe that’s because one sold at auction in 2009 for over $2.5 million.
1952 Jaguar C-Type; click to enlarge
Most owners of C-Types, ’50s Ferraris and the like would decline to drive such a car, content to let it languish in a climate-controlled garage to be ogled once in a while by admiring visitors.
A gentlemanly atmosphere pervades Bahamas Speed Week
That’s why drivers like the aforementioned gentlemanly atmosphere of Bahamas Speed Week, where they can go a bit easier on the turns and give the cars a good chance to breathe, but not have to worry about any maniacs trying to cut them off.
“Look,” one driver confided to us in the VIP tent after the conclusion of the racing, “the car’s worth a lot of money. I’m not going to drive it like crazy. This is about having fun.”
The spacious VIP tent was certainly the place for that.
1964 Ferrari 300 America; click to enlarge
There was, of course, a well-stocked bar, but also a sizable buffet of Bahamian delicacies, a delectable champagne dispensary and a cozy lounge set up by Nassau’s luxe Graycliff Hotel, restaurant and cigar company.
Sir Stirling Moss signed autographs in the VIP tent
When not actually behind the wheel, the drivers were more than happy to rub shoulders with guests in the VIP area and Sir Stirling graciously acceded to several polite requests for an autograph.
And when the racing was over for the day, all of them gathered in the VIP tent for the awards ceremony.
Sir Stirling himself helped to hand out the trophies, which of course made them all the more desirable.
1965 Aston Martin DB5; click to enlarge
The USA’s Simon Arscott in his 1965 Aston Martin DB5 took home the top prize for Race Cars in the Arawak Cay Sprint, where we snapped these photos.
Some drivers walked away with more than one statuette, but we’d say they earned it.
An awesome 1965 Aston Martin DB5 won at Arawak Cay
We promise to bring you more photos of the wondrous wheels in our next installment.
In the years to come, Bahamas Speed Week is bound to get even better, so here’s another promise—we’ll be back…
- Posted December 17, 2012
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- Jared Paul Stern for DRIVEN