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Racing brings Sousa closer to late father

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Kart driver Jeff Sousa puts the pedal to the metal (Photograph supplied)

Every time Jeff Sousa wins a race down at the Rubis Southside Raceway, he looks up to the sky in memory of his late father.

Dennis “Gee” Sousa got his then young son into go-karting and the two enjoyed precious time together at the track.

Jeff went on to race in the St George’s Grand Prix in 1998 before taking a hiatus from the sport to concentrate on power boats and bikes.

When the older Sousa passed away aged 60 just months before the Bermuda Karting Club’s first Dockyard Grand Prix in 2013, Jeff decided to pay the perfect tribute: he got back behind the wheel.

“I called up my cousin Bobby and got back into a go-kart basically,” he said. “I did that as a memorium for my dad — that’s what Dockyard was for me. I’ve been with the club ever since.”

The third Dockyard race takes place from April 29 to 30 and Sousa goes into the showpiece event as one of the leading drivers in the LO206 Masters class.

If he comes out on top at the end of the season, it will be Sousa’s first title at the age of 42. He says his dad would have relished the see-saw battle for the championship, which continues at the St David’s track on Sunday.

“It was nice, my dad and I being able to spend time with each other and do something other than work together,” he said.

“Doing something recreational — that’s why go-karts mean a lot to me because I end up thinking about him a lot.

“Right now, being able to possibly win a championship, I look up to the sky every time I win a race. So far I have 12 firsts.

“I also race with his watch on. A lot of people tease me about it. They’re like, ‘I never seen anyone race with a Rolex’!

“My dad would have loved it. They all say he’s looking down.”

The LO206 class has given Sousa the perfect platform to enjoy his karting second coming.

Either side of this year’s Dockyard Grand Prix, there are three regular season race days left and Sousa is relishing the contest with his main title rivals, Travis Lewis and Steven Bridges.

“This year the 206 class came about and it’s more economical than the other classes,” he said. “So I got in there; me, Travis Lewis and Steven Bridges — us three are battling for the championship.

“It’s great fun. I race with the over-40 group and they are a great bunch of guys.

“It gets a little heated on track but outside of that we joke around.

“The class has really taken off. We have another four new entrants into the class in the last month or so and we also have a senior class for 16-39 year olds.

“It’s an affordable class and I love the club. It’s a great bunch of people, like a family. And a lot of them knew my dad.”

While there are no championship points on offer in Dockyard, drivers will treat it as the highlight of the season, with thousands expected to attend just weeks before the America’s Cup gets under way.

For the first time in the event’s history, the club have two international drivers on island: Canada’s Rob Howden and Austin Riley, the talented youngster who is also raising awareness about autism.

He said: “The last trophy day, I got up on top of the podium but we are in a tight battle and we are all going to the Dockyard Grand Prix and looking forward to that. “I wasn’t going to do Dockyard but Scott [Barnes, club president] convinced me ... Bermuda boy versus Canadian guy [Howden], I’ll be representing my country. It’ll be great fun.”

Sousa says that this year would not have been possible without help from some very close friends who sponsor the kart — the Garage family, CNC Carpentry and Amsoil Race Team.

“Everyone is sealed [in the LO206] and has the same motor. It’s up to you and the track and how you drive.”

For more information on the Bermuda Karting Club and Dockyard Grand Prix, e-mail bermudakartingclub@yahoo.com or go to the club’s Facebook page

Jeff Sousa (Photograph supplied)