Benders wants to see drag racing develop in a safe environment

POSTED: 09/24/12 11:40 AM

St. Maarten / By Milton G. Pieters – Their areas of interest were not as vital as their mere presence on the area of the Ring Road behind the zoo early yesterday morning,  but what they all had in common was their whole hearted support for the construction of a drag racing strip on the island.

Considering that there are drag racing strips in Antigua, Nevis, Puerto Rico and one in the making of nearby Anguilla. St Maarten which is the hub of international travel can also fit into that list that can attract international participants.

While environmentalists stand strongly behind sustainable development, a group of avid racing enthusiast and their supporters sought a solution to what has now become a stalemate to their plans.  They too can make a contribution to sports tourism on an island that depends on the influx of visitors.

“We organized this meeting because of the stories that have been appearing in the newspapers about the negative impact of a drag racing strip on St Maarten and on the Great Salt Pond. As you can see, we are a large group that wants to engage in safe racing in a safe environment,” said Robert Benders, a member of the St Maarten Drag Racing Association.

“We have been drag racing on the streets for a number of years, we had cause to run from the police while racing in Grand Case and French Quarter. Only recently a friend of ours died in a street race. All we are doing is asking the government to give us this track,” said Joseph Woods, one of the veteran drag racers on the island.

Woods, who said that he would feel safer strapped into the seat of a racing car than flying in a 747 also pointed out the economic benefits such a facility will have on the island. “The airport will make money, the harbor will make money along with the shops, taxi drivers, car rentals and hotels.  The whole island will benefit from this,” Woods said.

Over the years, local drag racers and riders have gone on to make an impact while competing abroad and all of that has been accomplished without enough time to prepare their modified machines due to the fact that there was no place locally to do the required tests.

Victor Peterson who has been involved in drag racing for the better part of 40 years also supports a strip on the island. “This drag racing strip request is nothing new, we have been trying to get one for the past 30 years and every government has been turning us down. Now that we have a government that is trying to push it and keep our racing off the roads in a safe environment, people are against it and are making negative comments,” Peterson said.

According to Peterson, the facility which will be run by the St Maarten Development Foundation will be governed by international rules. However Peterson touched on a sore point when asked about the concerns of the environmentalists.

“Just look at the dump behind you, look at the polluted Salt Pond, they should start looking at those first before they look at the little noise we are going to make maybe twice a week for a few hours. The slowest cars will run for about 14 seconds and the fastest cars for seven seconds,” Peterson said.

Peterson could not refrain from pointing out the daily noise interference from the planes that take off and land at the Princess Juliana International Airport for the residents in the Simpson Bay area. “Those aircrafts make more noise than these cars, but we have to live with it. I think that the residents should be able to give and take.”

“It’s high time that we get our own track here,” said Terry Bailey, a member of the Vagabond Drag Racing team. “Drag racing is a big thing, we spend a lot of money just preparing those cars and at the end of the day we can’t even test them. This will be safer for all concerned and it will also attract visitors to the island,” Bailey added.

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Comments (1)

 

  1. We are here visiting the Island and was wondering if there was a drag strip..searched and found this article..as a professional racer back home I can support the claim that a track would bring in more money to the local merchants..it would also curb the street racing..