Rev your engines ladies and gentlemen, stay sharp and stay safe: this is the ultimate message portrayed by the newly founded Gibraltar Amateur Racing Club, which connects racetrack enthusiasts of two and four wheels.
‘Petrol heads’, as they are known in the circuit, are motorists, drivers or riders, who channel their need for speed in the controlled environment of purposely designed tracks, away from traffic circulation and the hazards of public roads’ wear ‘n’ tear. In Gibraltar, they have now come together to support local talent to gain better access to professional coaching and international competitions. And have fun in the process.
“We are proud to count among our members two young Gibraltarians already competing in Andalusian championships and doing very well at it,” says co-founder Michel Rodriguez. “The Club is also about building up their fandom and organising outings to racecourses, as well as liaising newcomers with reputable schools, where they can consolidate their technical skills. Racing is an expensive sport, not just because of the petrol burnt, but also for the equipment and vehicle maintenance, so sponsorship is always welcome.”
Since its inception in summer 2015, the Club has already held one road safety event in aid of GBC open day last October, and worked tirelessly towards their second open day held in late spring this year, to fundraise for the Guardian Angel Foundation while presenting themselves to the general public and lobbying for membership, which has already exceeded the 85 mark. Mostly, they are active racers, joined by a happy number of keen fans, who may not dare to take the wheel themselves, but are always there to cheer on, or perhaps jump in the passenger seats as co-pilots at rallies.
The committee is quite fluid at the moment and all decisions are taken chorally. Members have work and family commitments to attend to, so they alternate in the driver’s seat in their spare time. “Everyone worked very hard in organising our public event, so the credit goes to the entire crew,” Michel says.
And what an event it was! A number of go-karts were loaned from overseas specialised providers and they whizzed non-stop around a makeshift circuit set up in Europa Point parking lot, where kids as young as nine were made acquainted not just with racing but with the safety rules that come with it, like wearing crash helmets, fastening seatbelts, and respecting others on the track.
Given the limited scale of the improvised racecourse, the petrol thirst was not totally quenched for the hardcore fans, but the general public was given a little taster, a dress rehearsal of what they could enjoy if provisions are eventually made for the Club to stage regular practice runs and demonstrations. “We firmly stand against road racing, so everything must happen in a secluded and cleared area,” Michel affirms.
The Club cannot stress enough the need for a ‘supervised environment’ as they condemn wild races on public thoroughfares, after ‘Fast & Furious’ style clandestine night time races have become a tragic reality in several countries. The dangers there lie not just in the possibility of involving unaware road users into reckless driving accidents, but most critically, in the state of the asphalt and its eventual bumps cracks and potholes, while every dedicated racetrack is thoroughly checked and repaired before any event, the tarmac composition is engineered for optimum friction, tyres and soft bumpers are positioned at every hotspot, and race marshals are on the lookout for potential hazards, ready to intervene and suspend the race in case of any serious accidents, with paramedics on stand-by.
That’s why we often witness professional pilots escape spectacular tailspins virtually unscathed, and we accept that similar dynamics would almost certainly cause fatalities if they were to unfold on the road. However, this sport still implies a statistically higher rate of injury than other activities on wheels, and the importance of training and practice must never be underestimated, so that a budding pilot can learn how to manage speed.
Youngsters are invited to start surfing the asphalt as early as possible, if they feel the burn for burning some rubber, so they own their technique as second nature by the age of sixteen, when professional racing avenues open. Go-karts tracks are indeed fun, and a novel way to spend a day off. Once you master those with safety and agility in mind – and a lower centre of gravity – upgrading is easy, and there are several top schools not too distant from Gibraltar, that the Club networks with, where talent can be polished with discipline and dedication.
Of course, the Club’s dream is to one day gather enough sponsorship and awareness to see Gibraltar host car or bike races and rallies in the style of Monte Carlo or the Isle of Man, with all roads closed to traffic for one weekend and lined with flag-waving fans. The terrain seems promising for a motorbike race, to test balance and nerve in negotiating curves and hills in acceleration – and exhilaration.
While waiting for this dream to come true, the Club plans to organise outings to Spanish and Portuguese events, or even further afield to Italy, for Formula Uno or Moto GP aficionados. Jerez is a popular destination, not just for watching their idols, but also for testing their own stamina. “Portimao in Portugal is one of our favourites,” Michel says, “and we make a full holiday out of it, perhaps spending a week of bike riding and other leisurely activities like hiking, shopping and the spa.”
Like the Gibraltar Amateur Racing Club Official page on Facebook for information about public events and how to join or to sponsor upcoming events. Members will be issued a card that entitles them to discounts at local establishments along with a club polo shirt.