Monday, April 20, 2015

Motorcycle racing on the Malecón

Large-displacement sportbikes sweep through the Havana course.
   THE-STATE-APPROVED drag-racing events described here recently weren't the first time Cuba has broken its own ban on organized motorsports.
   In 2004, the government allowed motorcycle races on a closed circuit on Havana's Malecón, the same waterfront avenue that was the site of the Cuban Grand Prix in 1957 and 1958. CARISTAS contributor Tony Robertson was at the races and took the photos you see here.
   Several large-displacement bikes took to the course in what may have been a demonstration event for the Caribbean Motor Racing Championship. Running in their own class were smaller-displacement Cuban motorcycles, many with modifications suggesting they were part of some regular, if little-publicized, local racing series.

Bigger motorcycles may have come from the
Carribean Motor Racing Championship.

A Cuban entry passes the Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine.

Photos by Tony Robertson. Used by permission.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Racing returns, a quarter mile at a time

A '32 or '33 Ford Altered Coupe makes a run during one of the rare state-approved race days. 

   ORGANIZED DRAG racing still hadn't reached Cuba when Fidel Castro gave motorsports the black flag in the early 1960s.
   Rallies and road races were the island's competitions of choice, starting with the 100-mile Havana Cup in 1905. The racing scene grew significantly in the 1950s (as it did in so many countries), with three Gran Premio de Cuba events attracting some of the world's top drivers.
   Then the new government banned car racing and other "bourgeois" professional sports, throwing its support behind the amateur athletics it felt was more in keeping with the socialist ideal.
   Of late, however, drag racing has somehow found a toehold, with occasional state-sanctioned race days and a small but fervent street racing movement in the Cuban capital. The latter is the topic of a documentary, Havana Motor Club, that will debut this month at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tri-Five Chevrolets like this '56 two-door sedan are a timeless drag-racing platform.
  American filmmaker Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt worked on the movie for three years, riding with the Havana drivers in their '51 Fords and '55 Chevys as they set up clandestine races and later turning to crowdfunding for the cash to complete his project. Playboy (yes, Playboy) has a good read on the film.
   Does the arrival of drag racing signal some revised thinking that could bring more motorsports in Cuba? Probably not. More likely it's just something that slipped past the notice of the sociocultural gatekeepers, fed by an abundance of the type of cars that made this heads-up, straight-line racing popular in its beginnings and requiring little more than two vehicles, two drivers and a quarter mile or so of flat pavement.
   One thing, though, is certain.
   No one could call drag racing bourgeois.

Traction bars, Mickey Thompson slicks help this '55 Chevy hardtop connect with the asphalt.

Photos by Casey Strong, Used by permission.

See also: All Hail the Tri-Fives

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spotted! The elusive Chana 'Alfwin'

It took some time, but I finally came across this unique-to-Cuba, Chinese-made vehicle. Still looking for the Batista Corvette.