By Will Silk
The original Nassau Speed Weeks took place from 1954 to 1966 on New Providence Island, Bahamas; on which the town of Nassau dominates the island’s eastern half. The Nassau Speed Weeks was a non-championship event that was traditionally held after the racing season in Europe and America had ended, and was open to teams and drivers to come to the British Commonwealth to compete in a series of races held at the islands Oakes Field Course. Many of the hottest drivers and cars from North America would make the excursion to the Bahamas for a nice end of season race vacation. Be it that the location was just about 200 miles east of Homestead, Florida, and right in a major shipping lane; the logistics of moving the teams to the island for a week of racing was not as difficult as some other events.
The world’s most iconic race cars of the time, such as Ferrari GTOs, Maserati Birdcages, Chevrolet Grand Sports, Chaparrals, and the incredible AC Cobras gathered to be driven by such legends in motorsport as Roger Penske, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Mario Andretti, Pedro Rodriguez, Mark Donohue, Phil Hill, A. J. Foyt, and Stirling Moss.
One of the most exciting moments in the event’s rich history occurred in 1961 when a young Jim Hall arrived with his American Racing White Chaparrals from Midland, Texas. The front-engine layout of the Chaparral was quickly entering the stone age in terms of technology as cars from many of the British constructors were on hand with their engines mounted behind the cockpit. One of those new mid-engine sports cars was a Lotus 19 with Coventry Climax power and the great Stirling Moss at the wheel. The Lotus 19 was incredibly quick with Moss at the controls, but Jim Hall took the fight straight to him over the 4.4 mile course. While both cars succumbed to mechanical issues that were no doubt brought about by the flogging that their drivers were giving them, the car from Texas would just out last the car from Hethel to finish 41st in the Nassau Trophy Race that year. The winner was none other than Dan Gurney in another Climax-powered Lotus 19.
On the 30th of November 2011, the Bahamas will once again be rocked by the sounds of high performance sports and racing cars. The First Speed Week Revival will cover five days and include a Revival Island Tour, Street Course Demonstration, Drag Racing, Concours d’Elegance, Road Show, Fashion Show and Charity Ball.
The Bahamas Speed Week Revival will take place on its traditional date from 30th November to 4th December 2011. The goal of the organizers is to invite fifty race cars which graced the original events from 1954 to 1966 and have them supported by a group of Ferraris, old and new, to create an amazing spectacle as they visit the island’s beautiful attractions.
For more information, visit www.bahamasspeedweekrevival.com.
[Source: Bahamas Speed Week Revival; photo credit: Terry O’Neil]
“Chaparral Can Am & Prototype Race Cars” by Dave Friedman, MBI Publishing Company, 1998