Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Racing pioneer passes on


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THE?LOCAL and regional motorsport fraternity was thrown into mourning Tuesday with news of the passing of British racing driver Gabriel Konig at the age of 70.
In the days when the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) ran Bushy Park, she was a member of the BOAC Speedbird Team in November 1972, racing with such drivers as Dave Brodie and Gordon Spice which helped to launch the long-term relationship between Barbados and the motorsport community in Britain.
Most of the present day drivers may not recognize the name, but then club chairman Trevor “Bookie” Gale’s programme notes referred to her as “the biggest drawing card at this meeting”, since the Caribbean had not previously seen a Chevrolet Camaro driven by a female.
Konig, a native of Ireland, owned the fabulous Beaulieu House Car Museum in Drogheda, an industrial and port town in County Louth on the east coast of Ireland.
She was a founder member of the British Women Racing Drivers Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
She was one of the pioneers of female participation in a largely male-dominated sport, having started competing at Goodwood in 1962 in a Lotus Elite. She also raced an Elan, Nathan Imp, Sebring Sprite and MG Midget before the Camaro.
Apart from collecting 18 wins in 1968 and setting nine lap records internationally, along with winning the British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC) Embassy Trophy and Championship, she scored two wins at the South Dakota [track] in Guyana on the first leg of the Caribbean tour, in her American “muscle car”.
This car was not suited to the tight confines of Bushy Park, where her best result was a second-place finish behind Harry Watkins.
Konig, who continued to compete at various levels until her passing, was at one time ranked among the top two Irish female drivers as a result of her achievements in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Among her close friends were Simon Gillmore, who then lived in Trinidad and Tobago and raced against her in Guyana in 1973 in the ex-Gordon Spice Austin A40, and the late Andrew Phillips, against whom she raced more than once across the region.
It was through her friendship with Phillips that the next stage of motorsport development in Barbados evolved.
This came in rallying and paved the way for the visit of Irish international driver Kenny McKinstry, the first international competitor to win the island’s premier event, and television producer Alan “Plum” Tyndall.
Konig and her partner Malcolm Clark, himself an accomplished motorsport competitor, had become regular visitors once again in recent years, having bought a house in Church Village, St Philip, near to Bushy Park, where they enjoyed Christmas and New Year holidays. They had also been regular visitors to Rally Barbados, such as Mike Crabtree.
To Konig’s sorrowing relatives and friends, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) sent a message of condolence on behalf of the motorsport community of Barbados.


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