Barnes holds off Riley in Dockyard thriller
Scott “Skitchy” Barnes had to draw upon all of his experience to fend off a charging Austin Riley to win the 125cc Shifter class final at the Dockyard Grand Prix yesterday.
Barnes, the Bermuda Karting Club president, withstood some fearsome pressure for the entire 14 laps of the Clocktower Mall circuit as Canadian Riley ensured there were plenty of thrills during the main event.
For Barnes it was his second victory of the day, having won the Tag Senior class, and his first chequered flag in the shifters at a local Grand Prix since the maiden Dockyard street race in 2013.
Barnes said that teenager Riley — a growing star and poster boy for autism — gave him a “run for my money” and admits he was close to surrendering his lead on a few occasions.
“Austin is really fast and I felt him the whole race,” said Barnes, who led from start to finish after qualifying in pole position. “I just had to hold my line and it was definitely a tough race.
“About halfway through my motor spluttered coming out of turn four and he got alongside me and we went down the whole straight pretty much side by side.
“We both held our line and I managed to get to turn one in front — I thought I was a goner there!”
Barnes, who won all eight of his outings during the two-day event, which included practice races and heats, believes that Riley has a bright future in the sport and offered an interesting dynamic to the event.
“Austin is only 17 years old and has been racing all around the world, raising awareness about autism, and it was definitely a big win,” Barnes added.
Barnes, 31, suffered a setback in the morning's practice, splitting his engine mount, and had to borrow parts from rival racer David Barbosa.
“I hit a bump and my engine mount totally cracked in half,” Barnes said. “Dave was good enough to lend me his back-up and that's real good sportsmanship.”
Riley, who had autism diagnosed at 14, has raced in England and Australia, his tours including presentations to schools about his condition which affects social interaction and communication. He finished a close second behind Barnes with Shannon Caisey in third.
“It was probably the most challenging race weekend I've ever experienced,” said Riley, whose car suffered problems the previous day, his team having to borrow a piston and front mount from fellow competitors.
“It was a very, very tough battle and I thought I was going to have him, but I just couldn't get past. [Barnes] has some skill behind the wheel and managed to close the door on me — if he didn't I would have had the win.”
Barnes was also made to work in the Tag Senior final, finishing ahead of Barbosa in second and Bilal Binns in third.
In the Cadet class, Jamie Newton — the son of Oracle Team USA sailor Joey Newton — claimed victory, with Nile Bean runner-up and Jacob Hines completing the podium. Nick Narraway won the Tag Junior in a race that Ryan Burgess walked away unharmed from a nasty crash, his car suffering significant damage.
Canadian Rob Howden, from eKartingNews.com — the biggest karting website in the world — took the honours in the LO206 class, finishing ahead of second-place Jonathan Howes and AJ Durham in third.
Howden, who also announced the races, said he became friends with Barnes after they met at the Rock Island Grand Prix in Illinois.
“Scott has always said, ‘You've got to come and race at our club', but my schedule is always so busy,” Howden said. “He called in February and said, ‘We'd love you to come' and I looked at my schedule and I actually had an open weekend.
“I said, ‘You know what, this year I'm doing it, I'm coming' and I've had such a great time.
“I do a lot of street races up and down the US and the passion and dedication of the Bermuda Karting Club is amazing.
“The track was super-fun; it wasn't overly technical but you couldn't afford to make any mistakes otherwise you'd lose position.”