TnT RC Grand Prix
In May of 2015 RCMOTT conceptualized an event that would become its marquee. At the executive’s brain storming session this concept was called many different things and would be hosted in many places, “The Int’l”, “Sparta”, “RC Extreme”, etc..... None of these ideas would become a front burner name. The need for this marquee still burned in the hearts of the executive; while the fire never died, the idea was placed on the back burner.
July 2015, RCMOTT was contacted by Mr. Jason Drysdale, a Tobagonian. His request was simple, Tobago has many RC users and they would love to be part of the RC movement and RCMOTT. At that time, none of us foresee what would become our marquee. Being an inclusive organization, RCOMOTT rapidly reached out to the sister isle, we soon learnt of the many RC loving enthusiasts and their passions. Tobago had many off road users, aerial users and marine users, but they had no on road users. Within weeks RCMOTT organized an expedition, the Dwight York Stadium, Bacolet would be our destination.
The first “Test & Tune” was held over the course of 2 days, by this time many of the Tobagonians had already acquired 1/8th GT cars, which is the most populated on road class in Trinidad & Tobago. Two days of RC exploration ended with three Trinidadians at the top with Three Tobagonians taking the next three positions, while Tobago had talent to offer, the bigger picture was coming to sight, Tobago had a location capable of hosting on road races, not only that, the location, Dwight York Stadium had the potential to be home of a world class on road RC facility.
RCMOTT would rapidly move to host to have two more events in Tobago, these events was well attended by both competitors and spectators, these factors sealed the deal for RCMOTT, any signature event it should have should be held in Tobago. This marquee would be called the “TnT RC Grand Prix” & it would be held in Tobago. We were on the front burner at last, with unanimous agreement, RCMOTT set forth a marketing plan for the “TnT RC Grand Prix”, the reach of RCMOTT’s marketing would was received as far as Malaysia. RCMOTT had ads and bulletins on some of the world’s most popular RC networks, rctech.net, liverc.com to name a few. Tobago was now on the world stage, this time, it was there for RC racing.
Tobago for it’s silver sands beaches, exquisite cuisines, impeccable assortment of accommodation and the friendly fun loving nature of the natives is unquestionably a assets for any event. RCMOTT moved quickly, a request to place an On Road RC Track in the Dwight York stadium was formally and transparently made to Ms. Ostra Trotman, Facility Manager of the Dwight York Stadium. While RCMOTT was marketing its marquee, we took a constant step of faith and kept marketing and advertising on a high. Approval took a bit longer than most would like, but everything seemed to be going in the right direction, then in the first week of February 2015 RCMOTT received the call that would change the lives of many, “RCMOTT, you have permission to build the track”.
From this day forward it was full steam ahead; Mr. Joseph Ramoutar loaded his faithful blue truck and sailed to Tobago. Within a day of his arrival, Joseph and the Tobago chapter of RCMOTT had a track layout, while he had made several track before, he had no idea on how this layout would be accepted, how would our visiting racers see his design, he had worries, but, as with everything, he persevered in faith. RCMOTT’s Tobago chapter is led by Mr. Garvin Granderson, affectionately known as “Gru” by all. Garvin employed the help of Mr. Jerome Atkin, Ken Jones, Collis Edwards and the venerable Jason Drysdale, the man who got the Tobago RC wheel rolling. These honourable gentlemen invested many many man hours in getting the track prepared as per the guidance of Joseph, who was now back in Trinidad.
Garvin and his team would get to the track’s location from 6.00am, Sunday’s, mid week, every opportunity they got; they were at the track, laying out RCMOTT’s marquee. Pictures of the track and its progress would be circulated globally, then, the work started to bear the fruits. RCMOTT began to get emails requesting more information about the event. Interest brewing by the international RC community is a big deal for any RC racing country, but our interest was coming from some really respected names in the business. Jesus Tony Luna, ceded 14th in the world of GT racing signed up, and just like that; we had become a global event. Mr. Luna’s registration was soon followed by ROAR’s 2014 GT champ Mr. Mike Lyday; WOW, we had living legends headed to our small humble nation.
With registrations of reputable stature coming in, Joseph and Garvin nerves soon became shaky, so many what if’s came to the table, but RCMOTT has been hosting event since 2009, while we’re not new to hosting events, hosting internationally recognized racers of this stature is new. The program was constantly reviewed and revised to ensure a world class event first time out. After all, RCMOTT’s chairman, Mr. Jerome Gafoor had competed at many events abroad and had brought back that exposure & experience to RCMOTT.
Soon, RCMMOTT had 9 overseas registrations; Barbados, Italy, Germany, Brazil & USA, incredible were the only word that could describe these registrations. The registration that would redefine this event would be that of Mr. Paolo Morganti. This name, this person has redefined the GT market, not only the GT market, but Mr. Morganti is the 2016 Pan AM GT Champ, ceded 8th in the world, record holder and winner of more events than one could remember, even Mr. Morganti can’t remember all his wins, and he was coming to race at the TnT RC Grand prix.......... O.......M.......G!!!!!
Our event is now a global event, we had to get it right the first time, there was no dilly dallying, no iffing, no second chances; RCMOTT had to get this right. Any organization, sporting group or event host knows that an important part of being successful is getting sponsors to help with the financial fuel needed to drive the event, TnT like every country is currently faced with the same financial challenges, sponsors were far and few, but, RCMOTT have a few sponsors who stand by their efforts, RCTnT Ltd, Habanero Pepper Sauce Co. Ltd., Josar Ltd., Grand Wheel Automotive, A.S. Brydens, Mr. Curt Brathwaite, Independence Stores, took to the cause. With a few sponsors, RCMOTT pushed forward, the track was ready, but, were the people ready for what would come next?
April 22nd 2016, Mike Lyday and his son and pit man Nate Lyday would arrive to Tobago. This is it, all our work was now under scrutiny. Mike & Nate would walk the track, several times, in complete silence, sometimes stopping and pointing at an area. If one knows Garvin, one would know he possesses a bit of “OCDisim”, Garvin, Jason, Joseph, Jerome and all those who were at the track stood still, well they tried not to stand and stare, but the anxiety of hearing Mike & Nate’s comments had them close to cardiac arrest, at times Jason could be heard saying, “I can’t take this, somebody ask him nah”. During these tense minutes, Mike walked to the concrete pad where the driver’s stand would be placed and asked, “who built this track?”
The question, while emitted in a very soft polite voice seemed to sound as loud as carnival Monday on the avenue......with a sigh of hesitation and a gulp that could be heard in the mountains of Timbuktu, Jospeh said “me”. Mike walked forward, held his right hand out in a gesture of a respectable shake & shook Joseph’s hand and said, “I Love it, man this is an awesome layout, I love it!”. We had an event, now we had a track! Goodness gracious all, we were moving towards our goal.
Friday 23rd April, 12.00pm, this was the scheduled opening of the track, by this time, Mr. Morganti was in country, along with Jesus Luna & Will Carerra, both of who stayed and extra day in Trinidad to experience the night life, cuisines and pleasure that Aripita Avenue offer at night, that in itself is another adventurous story; however, they were in Tobago and ready to race. Race we did not, while the MET office said TnT would be faced with intense heat we had rain in Tobago, so, we did what we do well in our country, “we buss a lime”. The socialising was awesome; we got to meet the living legends of our sport in a way only the weather could have provided.
With no racing on day 1, we headed to Bar Code in Scarborough to have the opening toast and much more socializing. To be frank, there were many toasts, Mr. Morganti, having had a couple toasts already would be challenged by what some thought would be his greatest challenge, to be faced with a toast of our most potent & feared drink, PUNCHEON RUM. Morganti, fearless on the track was thought by some to be unable to face this toast, CHEERS, and like that, Morganti had mastered puncheon. All left for him to master was the track.
Day 2, the sun had stepped up for it’s shift and the track was in great condition for the ensuing races. Last minute checks were made and the track was cleared for open practice, race directors for the weekend would be Mr. Kester Johnson and Mrs. Farisha Mohammed, as they presided over the open practice session one could hear the times, 20.2, 19.7 & so on.. The locals were going at it, 9 year old Zameer who races in expert was already in the 19’s, along with Colin Coldero, Jason Dollaway, Steve St Louis, Jerome Gafoor, Garvin Granderson and of the local experts. But none of the USA based drivers had taken to the track yet. Then, Mike Lyday, pitted by his son Nate would head to practice. Mike would start in the mid 19’s, suddenly, the locals had to catch up, Mike’s lines were clean, fast and flawless, all were in awe.
The pits were busy; everyone was now looking for the right tire, the right amount of toe, a balance in camber vs caster, all of us needed to up our game, NOW. In the midst of this entire”bacchanal” Morganti said to Luna, “let’s go”, and headed to the driver’s stand. TnT RC Grand Prix stood still. Each step Morganti made toward the driver’s stand seemed to be in slow motion accompanied by a “BOOM”, as Morganti made his way up the steps of the driver’s stand, the other drivers lined up to vacate the stand. We all wanted to see this living legend make his first laps on our track. In pit lane Luna fired up his factory Serpent GT, they went through a stationary warm up, Morganti gave Luna the nod, his car was now on the track. Morganti was on our track, when he crossed the timing loop his name echoed off the surrounding trees and structure, everyone was now paying attention, some were holding their breaths, others were hypnotised by his fluid graceful lines, but he was still warming up. Then, after 2 minutes or so, Morganti squeezed the trigger; words cannot describe the anticipation, the thrill of the racing hearts of those witnessing history being made on our track. Instantly, Morganti redefined the what was the fast line around the track, he would effortlessly navigate the hair pins into the dog leg, down the straight, right-left- right, 18.9................
Everyone was now chasing Morganti’s time, but that was his first practice. He would remain on the driver’s stand for an additional 5 minutes, were he would drop his time to a 17.94, my lord, what have we done? This was the thought of some, but others were saying, we have a benchmark. Morganti left a empty driver’s stand, some were hesitant to return to the stand, some were still spell bounds, other were already in the pit chasing a new setup. When asked about the track, Morganti, a man of few words responded, “awesome track, I like it”. Nothing more needs to be said, we pushed to race, win, lose draw, we would race.
With two classes to be run, Expert and Sportsman everyone needed to be ceded, there were 2 ceding rounds, which lead to the starting grid for the first qualifier. Tobago native Jerome Atkins looked like the man to beat in Sportsman, he affirmed this by taking #1 position in the ceding rounds. Meanwhile in expert, the field would be left to sort their selves out after Morganti’s wake.
Qualifying for sportsman would see Atkins TQ, quite intimidating from the get go, but Roland Foster, a Trinidad native would have Atkins know, “Ah coming for yuh”, a friendly chuckle emitted by Atkins, this is racing. Expert would see Morganti set TQ with a blistering 23 laps in 7 minutes, Mike Lyday, being no slouch chased to beat this, but as good as Mike is, the task was a tall order and Morganti’s TQ would stand for the entire event. Colin Coldero led the local charge, while Colin is known to be a fast driver his pace was not ready to match or equal Mike’s speed. RCMOTT’s 2015 champ Steve St. Louis was in good form, showing good speed and lines, but Like Colin, Steve could not match Mike and would have to wait for the semis to get into the finals. At the end of day 1 Atkins held overall TQ for Sportsman and Morganti the TQ for expert. The day would end in tragedy for Jesus Luna, while in a friendly head to head session his RX battery lost a cell, his car would go full wide open throttle, at close to 60mph his brand new 2015 GT car would meet the finest Tobago 4”x4” hard wood. The sound of the impact could wake those asleep in China, Luna’s sheik sounded as if he himself was mauled by a vicious wild animal. The damage would be in comprehendible, bent chassis, crushed bearings, destroyed servos, destroyed Murnan Engine, destroyed ego, the sight was depressive to all, Luna was now a spectator, or pit man, or chef, but he was no longer a racer. Fortunately, RCTnT had a new in box complete Serpent 3.0 GT in stock and on site at the midway, an arrangement was made and Luna was soon headed back to his villa for an all night rebuild.
Day2 and final day of racing started early, Roland Foster, determined to take the TQ for Sportsman was on site from 6.00am, Roland was roomies with team USA, Morganti spent some time with Roland getting his car right and coaching him, Roland started his day right, practising. The rest of the field rapidly filled the pits, soon the track was busy, everyone testing and tweaking, getting a feel for changes that was made overnight, but Luna was nowhere to be found. With minutes to the start of the final qualifier, Luna arrives, oddly enough, carrying a desk lamp, go figure. Luna’s car was rebuilt and ready to race, but not until team USA captian Paolo Morganti gave it a one over.
Sportsman qualifying round ended as fast as it started, Atkins held his position and took the overall TQ and position #1 on the grid in his class. By this time, 9 year old Zameer Ramoutar had worked his way into the faster group of Expert drivers for qualifying. Expert qualifying saw more action than one could imagine. Colin had done all that was needed to get on team USA’s pace, from the start of his round Mike and Colin distanced their presence from the pack. It was blistering, Mike seemed to be flat out, seemed. Colin, WAS all out and beyond, in as much as the clocked hit the 4 minute marker Colin stole the lead from Mike. Suddenly Colin was in the lead, then, Mike went flat out. Mike, by his actions on the track basically said to Colin, “nice move, now look at this”, Mike ripped the lead away from Colin in the left turn before the pits, the crowd went, “WOAAAA”. The pass was incredible; Colin had no response and settled for 2nd. At the end, Morganti and Lyday qualified directly into the finals, leaving the rest of the field to find their way into the finals from the semis.
Expert Semis #1 would have Jesus Luna mixed in with several locals, including 9 year old Zameer. From the start of the race, Luna, Zameer, Jerome & Akeel would take the lead, while Luna Akeel, and Zameer battled to secure their spots in the finals, Garvin and Jerome would begin to experience mechanical issues leaving an opening for Kyle Sealey. Kyle would make it into the final with much jubilation. Expert Semis #2 had very little drama when compared to semis #1, from the start, Colin took the lead followed by Steve. Both of these locals seem to be pulling away from the rest of the field, but team USA driver Will Carrera played a very wise game and drove to secure his spot in the finals without thrashing his car, Tobago native Jason Drysdale took the 4th and final transfer spot without much challenge.
The stage was now set for both finals, Sportsman race would be 45 minutes of extreme excitement. From the sound of the tone for 40 minutes there was no clear leader, this being a testament of well grouped drivers. Atkins was the leader, but never by a wide gap, he was trailed by his peers no less than 1 lap, an extremely narrow & fragile margin. Atkins was constantly reminded he cannot relax as Anthony Beache and Roland Foster constantly knocked on his door for a change of leadership. Silently and unnoticed, young Cameron Granderson was working his way up from 10th. Many middle order battles were going on, Sanjay Ramoutar could be seen tip toeing and biting his lip and he put everything out to hold off Navin Birbal. Sanjay would eventually find relieve when Navin’s spoiler came off slowing his pace. At the top the fight was close, Atkins continued to lead, but Beache had started to experience engine complications. Beache problems led to Roland having open road to push harder and close the gap between him and Atkins. Then, absolute disaster, Atkins exhaust system would come loose, the spectators who were sitting were now on their toes, some rushed to the front to see what would happen next. Less than 10 minutes to go and Atkins had a buffer of 4 laps over Roland, who had run out of fuel chasing Atkins.
Atkins Tobago based pit crew got him into the pits and got the car back on the track in record time, by now, Roland was in full attack mode, Luna, who was Roland’s pit crew and coach was screaming at the top of his voice, “Rolee, slow down, turn now, ahhhhhh, not like that, son of a b****, would you calm down”. Honestly, we thought Luna was going to have an anxiety attack, how could one man bear that much excitement and live? Atkins was on the track again & pushing hard, Beache was out of the race, Sanjay was 3rd, this race had 5 minutes to go and it was far from over. Atkins exhaust system would completely fall out this time, his RC car suddenly sounded like a “perry port” rotary engine, 4 minutes to go, his car was louder than one would think a RC car could be, backfiring & popping Atkins tried to keep his lead, but he was already in second, Roland was living his dream while Luna was going crazy trying to keep his driver cool and collected. Unbeknownst to all Sanjay had some tire issues which first time racer Cameron Granderson did not have, Sanjay succumbed to the hard charging first time youngster, Cameron had done it, he took third spot in his very first RC race, much to the now jumping shouting crying laughing screaming father, Garvin. In the end, Roland would take the win, Atkins 2nd, Cameron 3rd, Sanjay 4th and Beache 5th.
Expert Finals, Moranti won, end of commentary...........
Ok, there’s more to it, just like Sportsman, Expert had its share of intense moments, for 60 minutes the entire field would be chasing one man, Paolo Morganti, it’s not that he’s unbeatable, but on this day, he was invincible. From the sound of the tone Morganti took the lead and never looked back, he was never involved in the dramas that lay below. His calm collected composure had his car effortlessly navigated around the track; he seemed to be the director of a ballerina in the midst of Jouvert. And jouvert it was for the rest of the field, Mike had already taken the 2nd spot with Luna in 3rd, team USA was hauling and looking good for a 1-2-3 finish.
As in any form of racing, it’s not over till it’s over, the race changed in the blink of an eye, Mike’s car lost drive on the right rear, almost simultaneously Luna’s car started to get twitchy, both drivers were now being hunted by the hard charging Trinidadian Colin Coldero. Nate would bring Mike into the pits to find the problem worse than expected, he advised him to drive it out as is. Luna’s pit men brought him in and affected repairs, in the mean time Colin stepped up and pulled away, taking with him Steve St Louis and 9 year Zameer Ramoutar. TnT was now 2-3-4, the crowd was pumped. Then Steve’s car left the race before Steve was ready to, and like that, Steve was in the pits, Steve & his crew tried to get the car back in the race, but the pace was now in high 18’s & he was already in the pit for many many minutes, Steve retired. Zameer was now in 3rd, Luna was back out and hunting, Will was right there with Luna, but now Tobago native Drysdale with Kyle was pressuring Will from behind. Colin pushed, pulled and did everything he can to try and get closer to Morganti, who seemed to be unconcerned, Colin continue to push. Luna caught up to Zameer and both were now locked in a battle for 3rd. Luna is an experienced driver, he played the patience card well on the 9 year old, eventually, Zameer would clip a board sending him to the pits. His father, Joseph Ramoutar effected repairs and had him back out and racing, but in 6th position, where he would finish the day. Mike Lyday had found his new pace on front drive only and was in a somewhat comfortable position of 5th. Will Carrera had the 4th spot secured, but Luna was on a charge, he had Colin in his cross hairs, but Colin was 7 laps up from Luna with less than 10 minutes to go, Luna was all in, everything or nothing, Luna was consistently hitting mid 18’s and holding the fastest lap, that is until Morganti heard Luna had fastest lap, a position he fixed on his last lap setting the official fastest lap of the track as 18.243s. At the final tone, Morganti 1st, Colin 2nd, Luna 3rd, Will 4th & Mike 5th.
A.S. Bryden Ltd ensured that the winners had a very spirited prize giving with Sperone Champagne; Paolo Morganti ensured the top five finishers of expert class had a taste of his bubbly as he gleefully showered them all with a fountain of champagne. Mr. Morganti was presented a Habanero Pepper Sauce hamper for setting the “Hottest Lap” at the TnT RC Grand Prix. Roland Foster celebrated his career win in style as did Cameron. It was a truly memorable prize giving as everyone who stayed back exchanged their stories of challenges and adventures during the course of the event.
Some people’s lives have been changed, some racers learnt lines and moves they will never forget, some made friendships that will last a lifetime, some had flavours never to be forgotten, there are these memories and more, but more than all of this, history was created, as for creating a marquee, we believe we created something even more, we created TnT RC Grand Prix, see you there in 2017.