After a ten year slump in activity, motor racing in Zimbabwe is picking up again as evidenced by the Hamish Cameron Raceday and season finale held on Sunday 27th October at the home of our country’s motor racing, Donnybrook Raceway.
Donnybrook is out along the Arcturus Road, and is neighboured by Mabvuku. Residents of this high-density area came out in numbers on Sunday to fill up the free seats adjacent to the finish line and the fastest straight on the circuit.
More than forty entrants raced a total of 18 cars and 25 motorbikes in different categories to finish up the most successful season of the last ten years at what motor sport committee member and motorbike racer Rob Wallace described as a well-attended event.
In terms of spectators, Wallace says that they have takings which indicate that they surpassed one thousand spectators, though it was hard to gauge numbers as fans are spread out along the 2.75km track.
Of entrants he says, “We have forty pits, and there were thirty six occupied at this event, which the committee is very happy with” said Wallace. “Motor racing almost died in Zimbabwe in the last ten years, but has really come back to life.”
Wallace lists financial constraints as a major factor in the near downfall of the sport, and the dedication of the committee and participants as contributing to its survival. “We put every penny we make from tickets into keeping the venue operational, though resurfacing the track for example would cost half a million dollars.”
Despite the track being described by some competitors as a bit gravelly, there was non-stop racing from morning till early in the evening, with spectators enjoying sixteen events and competitors being given one last chance to win more points and improve their standings.
There was no stopping champion Ian Howden however, who furthered his commanding lead in the Unlimited Saloon category to claim the title convincingly. He raced to victory in his punchy Subaru WRX with excellent skill obvious even to the untrained eye.
Gary Kirk won the 1600cc Sports Car class on the day, but lost the championship to Brett Cameron by just a single point in a competition where a win will earn you twenty!
It was a good day for Eric Heard who was the Unlimited Sports Car champ for the day, though the bar for the season was set by the driving prowess of Cole Bond, who took more than ten race wins to easily claim the overall title. Bond has just returned from the FIA Young Driver Excellence Academy in South Africa where he placed third out of fourteen of the best young drivers in Africa.
The bikers ride in two categories, the Megelli, which are the smaller 250cc bikes, and the Superbikes category which are bikes of 600cc – 1000cc, reaching up to 240km an hour on the straights.
Showing his fearlessness and skill, Phil Archenoul won both bike events. There are two ladies on the 250cc bikes this season, Tiffany Fisher from Harare and Bianca Shultz of Bulawayo.
“This is only my third event so far” said Fisher, who explains that physical strength and stamina are critical in handling these heavy machines. She is looking to build these up for better cornering, when the rider is not seated but suspended as they lean precariously into the bends.
First timers to the track will be surprised by the noise, speed and excitement of the events. There are several good spots to watch the racing, but most popular is the notorious S-bend where most overtaking and accidents happen. Naturally this is where the majority of the crowd assembles, drinking cold ones under umbrellas or on the tailgates of their trucks, cheering for their drivers, and soaking up the sun.
Though the Hamish Cameron Raceday marked the end of the official racing season, there are more events coming up, beginning with a DragPro club fixture on 23 November.