Barbadian Calem Maloney is the new Caribbean Junior Karting Champion. After three days and 12 hard-fought races at Bushy Park Barbados over the weekend (November 4-6), he defeated Trinidad & Tobago’s Rylie Ramroop by a margin of just nine points, with Jamaica’s Zander Williams a further six behind. The lone female in the 16-strong field of regional karters aged from 11 to 17, T&T’s Naomi Jade Garcia was the top scorer aged 14 and under, finishing fifth overall and beating Blake Thompson of Barbados by just one point.
Consistency was key to Maloney’s success, as three race wins – the weekend’s first on Friday, then two yesterday (Sunday) – were backed up by seven more podium finishes. He was the top points-scorer on Friday, despite two wins for Williams, then the Jamaican won twice more on Saturday to head the points, with Ramroop just too far adrift to challenge them, despite winning once each day and being joint top-scorer yesterday with Maloney.
Funded by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) Sport Grant Programme and administered by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) in association with Bushy Park Circuit Inc (BPCI), the Caribbean Junior Karting Academy Trophy (CJKAT) was first run in 2019, but subsequent editions were lost to the pandemic. BMF President Senator Andrew Mallalieu was delighted the event has returned: “To have 16 kids from around the region coming together to compete was a win in itself. But the level of karting was absolutely phenomenal, everything went off safely and it was such a fun weekend.”
That sense of fun and togetherness was echoed by the drivers. After winning on Sunday, Maloney said: “There was a very tight field this year compared to last time, all very good drivers. I won the first race today and Zander didn’t finish, sadly for him, which gave me a cushion in the points. Then I was just hoping to finish all the races, and I did.” Williams was in reflective mood: “It was quite a disappointing day with the dnf in the first race, but I have had a lot of learning for my future. It was fun to have friends off the track and rivals on the track and to have some good battles with Calem and Rylie.” Ramroop added: “I really found the pace that I wanted today, but I was already too far behind in the points.”
Before the competition started, Thursday was dedicated to a training session for drivers and officials conducted by Dubai GP Clerk of the Course and FIA-accredited Regional Training Provider Ronan Morgan, who had also been in the island for the first CJKAT in 2019. Each day of racing was run on a different circuit configuration, but to the same format: Free Practice, 15 minutes of Qualifying, then three eight-lap Qualifying Heats and a Final. The first grid was based on Qualifying, the second on Qualifying reversed and the third on each driver’s best lap time from the first two events, with the fastest on pole.
With everyone racing identical Vortex-engined Exprit OK-Junior karts, competition was expected to be close, and so it proved. Fastest in all three Free Practice sessions on a 1.1-kilometre circuit, Maloney carried that pace into Friday Qualifying, with Ramroop, Jamaica’s Luke Spencer, Garcia and Williams all within just over 1sec. He led the first race all the way, lively battles behind allowing him to win by 23secs from T&T’s Benjamin Mahon, who had climbed steadily from 10th on the grid, and Thompson, who had qualified eighth.
Thompson led much of the second race, too, but finished third behind Ramroop, who led Maloney by 4/10ths at the flag. Maloney, Ramroop and Williams had the top three lap times in the first two races, so headed the grid for race three, but finished in the reverse order after much chopping and changing in the early stages. So Williams was the third different winner from a third home country in as many races, just what CJKAT was designed for.
The grid for the Final was based on points scored in Qualifying and the Qualifying Heats, with Maloney, Williams, Ramroop, Thompson and fellow Bajans Aaron Blackett and Raizer Stoute the top six. Williams passed Maloney on the second lap for a lead he would not lose, Maloney crossing the line 4/10ths adrift and 3secs ahead of Ramroop, who finished a lonely third, with Garcia an impressive fourth having worked her way up from 13th on the grid.
Saturday was a new day and new track layout, shorter at 0.78km, with Garcia and Colin Bradshaw of Barbados top of the timesheets in two Free Practice sessions. But it was Williams who claimed the six points for pole this time, ahead of Maloney, Ramroop, Garcia, Mahon and Thompson. Contact between the leaders at half-distance left Maloney on the sidelines, while Williams managed to push-start his kart to finish 13th with the fastest lap, a useful banker for the race three grid. While Ramroop claimed his second win by just over 1sec, Garcia earned her first CJKAT podium and Thompson his third as the two 12-year-olds made their mark.
Mahon led more laps of the reverse grid race than anyone else, but not when it mattered, as he was passed by both Matthew Warmington – the Jamaican became the fourth different winner of the weekend – and a hard-charging Williams, up from 10th, and with a better fastest lap to give him pole for race three. Then, having put that pole to good use with his third win of the competition, heading Maloney by just under 1sec, with Ramroop third, Williams went on to lead the same pair across the line in the Final, to end day two of CJKAT leading the standings with 146 points, 10 ahead of Maloney, in turn nine ahead of Ramroop.
For the final day, the lap length was again 1.1km and, with two days of competition under their belts, Maloney and Ramroop topped the Free Practice Sessions. The latter qualified on pole, ahead of Mahon – the T&T driver’s best quali of the weekend – Maloney and Williams, who enjoyed a good scrap for the first half of race one, until Williams spun into retirement. Maloney won from Ramroop and Mahon, with Jamaica’s Luke Spencer equalling his best result of the weekend, just inches adrift of Mahon. The reverse grid race produced one of the most popular results of the weekend among what had become a close-knit community, when Naomi Jade Garcia scored one for the girls; after Jamaica’s Brandon Finzi-Smith had led for a couple of laps, Garcia moved ahead and sped to victory over Maloney and Williams, who had both threaded their way through the field.
With lap times from the earlier races in the 46s bracket dictating the grid, Ramroop, Maloney, Williams and Daniel Ullyett were the front-runners for race three and, while Ullyett slipped back towards the end, Maloney claimed his third race win, chased home by Ramroop and Williams, with Garcia fourth. The podium was the same in the Final, but with the order shuffled, Ramroop’s victory ensuring he’d share top billing on the daily leader board with Maloney, but Williams’ second place meaning he slipped from leader to third in the final standings. There was some consolation for the Jamaican camp, however, as Finzi-Smith, Spencer and Warmington finished fifth, sixth and seventh, meaning all four drivers were in the top seven, the best result of the weekend.