2010/ 02 / 08
Article by Glenn Beckles (Red265 Editor)
Pictures by Ian Nicholls & Paul Edwards (www.motorsportbarbados.com)
Pictures by Glenn Beckles http://red265multimedia.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=69172596
James Betts is widely regarded as one of the best young talents of Barbadian motorsport. Having started back in 1997 as a navigator for sideways specialist Stuart McChlery, Betts is one of the few persons who has participated in motorsport from both the driver and navigator’s seat. We at Red 265 decided to pick his brain for a bit, do a bit of retrospection and peer into what the future holds for this young gun.
From the age of 18, James Betts was getting his feet wet in the local motorsports scene. Navigating for Stuart McChlery in a Ford Escort Mk I, James had a lot of fun and he decided a little while afterwards to swap seats and become a driver. The year 2000 saw James driving a Toyota Starlet, and a few years later he acquired an Opel Corsa. In 2007 he acquired a Group N Subaru Impreza WRX and had his good friend Dean Serrao in the co-driver’s seat.
At one point in time, James was the occupant of arguably the most coveted and exciting co-driver seat in Barbados: alongside Trevor “Electric Micey” Manning. James recalls his time calling pace notes for Trevor as one of the highlights of his career. “Trevor is an incredible driver. In my opinion, I rate him alongside Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton as the best driver in the Caribbean.” James described driving along side Trevor as being lots of fun and he was amazed by Manning’s car control. “Without a doubt, my greatest memory of rallying with Trevor would have to be Rally Jamaica – well the ones that we finished, in any case. Out of all, my favourite year was 2000, we were leading the rally but sadly a broken steering column resulted in us finishing third. Despite that, however, that was the best Rally Jamaica experience I’ve had with Trevor.”
James also described his time navigating for Trevor Manning as a learning experience, and it has had an influence on his driving. “Subconsciously, I was taking note of Trevor’s car control and driving techniques. Funny enough, it’s not that I was directly taking my eyes off of the pace notes to watch what he was doing, but in my peripheral vision and occasionally glancing up I made mental notes.” Anyone who has seen James’ driving after his time with Manning would be hard-pressed to ignore his constant improvement and skill development.
The 2009 season saw James constantly doing battle with his Super Modified 9 compatriot Josh Read. Looking back on it James remarked “The battles between Josh and myself have been the hottest, most keenly contested I have ever been in. There was never a dull moment and I enjoyed every second of it.” 2009 also saw him driving events in Trinidad as well as Rally Jamaica. “Rallying in Jamaica and Trinidad really separates the men from the boys. It’s not like here in Barbados where drivers know the stages backwards. Especially when there is a new stage that not even the local drivers from Jamaica or Trinidad know, when we join in the mix, it can make for some very keen battles and really tests the relationship between the driver and co-driver. Having to rely on pace notes and not memory really sharpens your skills.”
With the focus now on the 2010 season, James has his sights set on a new stomping ground. He is undecided as to which group he will compete in, but one thing is for sure, his step up in group has been accompanied by a step up in machinery – this being in the form of a 2000cc Renault Clio. “I’m really looking forward to this season. Even though I won’t be battling for group honours with Josh anymore, there’s always Jonathan Still, Mark Hamilton, Nick Gill and Ian Warren– depending on which group I enter. Right now it’s a toss-up between Super Modified 10 and Super Modified 11.” James is looking forward to competing in Rally Trinidad and Rally Jamaica, with a UK event thrown in for good measure. With his Subaru Impreza being set up for gravel, it remains in Jamaica and will be his weapon of choice when that even rolls around at the end of 2010. Speaking of the end of 2010, James is considering the acquisition of another car. “I’m looking at getting either an Evo VII or an Evo IX. It’s early days yet and which ever one is available when the time comes, I’ll make my decision then.”
James Betts has become a household name in Barbadian and regional motorsport circles. His commitment and car control leave spectators in awe every time he passes by on a rally stage and he improves with each event. In 2010 James is looking to cause a shake up among the old heads in the higher Super Modified groups, and he has the machinery to do this. Red265 Rally Media wishes him all the best for this season and seasons to come.
Red265 Rally Media A vote of thanks goes out to James Betts for sharing his time with us and allowing us to use his facilities at Quick Start Auto to conduct our interview, and also All Terrain Plus. A special vote of thanks is also extended to Ian Nicholls and Paul Edwards for providing a picture of James in his early days of rallying.