'Quietly Confident'… This is the bold expression from both 2019 - 95mph class winner, and first to Tobago, Energiza and echoed by the iconic Mr Solo Too chasing that elusive 19th title, ahead of the 52nd running of the Trinidad and Tobago Great Race - the longest consecutively run offshore powerboat race in the world. The 2020 edityion runs off on Saturday.
A total of 26 machines have signed up to take part in this Trinidad and Tobago Powerboat Association's (TTPBA) marquee event, one that was in jeopardy of being further postponed or cancelled up to a fortnight ago. The second rollback due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has impacted the local sporting fraternities similar to what is taking place around the world, but as the TTPBA President Marcus Gomez pointed out, this is a no-contact sport, where the 12th man doesn't really factor in this high-speed pursuit. Gomez also said that he was proud that teams were still willing to come out to race despite any challenges they may be facing during this pandemic and economic uncertainty, and assured the nation that all public health protocols will be adhered to and followed to the T. There will be no spectators allowed at any of the usual viewing points, and racing teams will not dock in Tobago, but return to Trinidad after a rest period.
This event that runs from outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Wrightson Road in Port-of-Spain to Store Bay will be streamed live from 6: 30 am on CNC3's Facebook page and website for the second year running on Saturday, a feat that was no small accomplishment for the TTPBA according to their President, as the race runs along the very remote coastline for the majority of the race. Gomez however, highlighted that many improvements were made by partnering with other companies, and contingencies are in place for the unknown as they aim to make it a great viewing experience for a great race.
From the registered boats, five are registered from Tobago with no international entrants this year. However, as they say in local palance, “any number could play” with news that great race stalwart, and Mr Solo Too throttle-man for over two decades, Darin Marshall will not compete alongside national icon and driver Ken Charles this year, as he is unable to travel from Canada, and former vice president Roger Bell will now embrace the coveted seat. This is the second major change in as many years for the 130 mph class outfit with Devindra Joseph replacing Irishman Gino Fusco in the navigator's chair in 2019, as Fusco is unwell.
Speaking to Guardian Media Sports, Darin Marshall said, “It's tough not being there, but I've been in constant contact with Ken (Charles) during this process and we are confident that we have a very capable body in Roger Bell who is now in the 'stickman's seat.” I have had many conversations with Roger and know that we are going to bring it, I even shared our closely guarded secrets with him“. When probed about some of those rituals, pointers and tips, Darin just smiled and just said that they will remain confidential, and that every throttle-man will have his own instinctive tactics, but they remain quietly confident that they will get across safely first and foremost and in the first position. Darin said he will also be up and watching on as he would on race day, there in spirit.
Well, the man that all eyes will be on, Roger Bell recollects that moment in motorsport history, “I'll always remember that phone call on a Friday afternoon in June when Ken Charles called me and asked what my plans were for the great race, when I told him we were sitting it out, he asked me if I would throttle for him. Well, after a long pause, I said I would be absolutely honoured to.” Bell said that he feels by this honour alone he has already won the great race and hopes to do Darin proud.
It will certainly be a clash of the Titans, but not coming from the same class. Energiza is determined to do the double and take further bragging rights, as they also remain quietly confident of victory. Driver for the 95mph class front runner, Sheldon Edghill spoke to Guardian Media Sports about how they plan to defend. Edghill said, “Same as last year, we get to the front, we run the boat as hard as we could, we push, we look at the conditions, and see how much harder we can push the boat, safely of course. But our plan is to run, we are not going to hold back for anybody, our plan is once we start we going… Mr Solo and Big Thunder have to play Catch up.”
Great Race 2020 streaming live on CNC3's Facebook page and website from 6:30 am on Saturday, with commentary by CNC3's Robert Dumas and Richard Blaize.