Automotives recently spoke to one of the biggest names in Jamaican motorsports, Kyle Gregg. Still fresh off a momentous victory at Rally Trinidad in April, Gregg spoke a little bit about his journey in motorsports, the key elements in his success, and some of his views on the state of motorsports in Jamaica.
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Like so many great racers, the Rally champion’s early experience with motorsports was fuelled by his family’s familiarity with the racing track: “Both my father and my mom raced. My mom used to do go-karts and my father is a multi-Dover champion and a past rally champion so I’m basically just following footsteps,” he said.
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Despite getting a somewhat late start in go-karting, Gregg efficiently found success in the arena and moved on to display similar performances in circuit racing and, his favourite, rallying. “I’ve always said I prefer rallying, because of the drifting around the corners and the dirt and rallying is a lot more fun. However, circuit racing has a swing in Jamaica right now; people are tending to follow circuit racing more than rallying.”
Rally Trinidad and the previous years of victories Despite the swing in favour of the circuit, rally remains pulsing with many of Jamaica’s motorsport talents, as was evidenced by Gregg and the five-car Jamaican team that left their mark on Rally Trinidad in April. “It was my first time representing Jamaica on an international gravel rally. I didn’t expect to win, I should say, because basically, I was in their home country and they know all the stages (layouts of the track). But I mean, we drove hard and we got a win which was good,” Gregg said.
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At the rear of his Trinidad victory are two equally accomplished years in 2017 and 2018 where Gregg was the 2018 Circuit Champion; 2018 Thundersport Class Two (TS2) victor; 2018 Heroes of Speed Champion; 2018 Rally Jamaica champion; and won Eon RJR Motorsports Jamaica’s 2017 Athlete of the Year. “Being nominated for motorsports Athlete of the Year was actually quite … I didn’t even know I was going to get it, honestly. But to be around the seating area with all the top athletes of Jamaica, I mean it shows that motorsports is actually getting recognised and I was very privileged to be 2017 Sportsman of the Year.” He credits all the success to his team and sponsors. “My sponsor, which is Texaco, they’re the ones behind me being successful as well as my team, the Peter Moodie Garage Team. These guys prepare the circuit car on and off the track. When we’re not racing, they’re still doing preparations to the car while my racing is being funded by Texaco GB Energy, so I have a key team and a key sponsor. Everything is in tune and in balance.”
A balance of challenges and passion Alongside great achievements, one naturally expects challenges. However, Gregg maintains that any difficulties he might have are mitigated by the experience of doing what he enjoys. “I wouldn’t say I face any challenges, I mean, you do what you love. I could tell you that I haven’t had a long weekend where I could vacation – all the long weekends here in Jamaica – Easter weekend, Emancipation, Independence, Heroes weekend – all of those are racing weekends. So while people are going out and partying and stuff, yes, you want to party and live your life, too, but at the same time, I’m doing what I love; so the racing just takes over that time.”
Keeping consistent As a follow-up to the multiple accomplishments of the past year, the racing champion’s goal is to maintain consistency. “2018 was probably one of my best years because I won the Dover championship, I broke the track records at both tracks, I won the Rally championship, I won Rally Jamaica championship, I won the sprint championship, so I won basically everything last year in the highest form of category in motorsport racing in Jamaica. To back that up, this year will be very hard. We’re off to a good start, I should say, considering that we’ve won Rally Trinidad which is a major international title. But as I said, the aim is to just be consistent throughout the year. Yesterday, we won one out of the two races, so as I said, just try to be consistent and get all the points possible for circuit racing so that we can defend that class championship at the end of the year. In terms of rallying, our local rallying doesn’t start ‘til July at the moment because there’s a break but, yeah, I’m just going with the flow and taking them one by one.”
Along with consistency, the obvious goal is to improve. After setting a new Dover lap record of 1:15.8 in April, Gregg is aiming to go even faster. “Each race meet we always want to go faster because the competition is always improving. Last year, when we did 1:15 we thought it was astonishing, we thought that we couldn’t even get into 16s and now we’re at 15, so it shows that we’re just exploring our limits. I mean I’m getting fitter and faster and it just shows that there’s always room for improvement and in order for us to keep on winning and being consistent, we have to be fast. The faster we are is the better, so we can get ahead of the competition,” Gregg said.
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Points to improve in Jamaican motorsports Improvement is also something Gregg would like to see for motorsports in Jamaica. The racer highlighted some of the woes Jamaican racing competitors have to face in getting government sponsorship to travel as well as to host foreign competitors and boost local events. He made a comparison to the treatment of motorsports in Barbados, exposing the disparity experienced by competitors here in Jamaica: “The Government doesn’t acknowledge motorsports as much. The Rally Barbados which is happening next weekend, the international rally, they have over 40-odd overseas competitors and 90-odd entrants. For our international rally here we struggle to get 20. Why? Because there is always import duty on cars and we can’t get waivers and stuff so it’s always hard to get competitors to travel to Jamaica. In Barbados, for a circuit racing car that is not going be driven on the road, they have waivers. They pay less duty because the car is not being driven on the road, it’s a circuit race car, it’s being driven in an enclosed environment that way they pay less duty. Out here now, if we want to bring in a race car, we have to pay the full duty, even though it’s not driving on the road. More than half of the cars that race at Dover don’t even have headlights or anything so they can’t even pass fitness – because headlights and stuff weigh extra, so we take out all of that because we want to get the cars as light as possible. The Government does need to do something in terms of helping to build motorsport in Jamaica,” Gregg said