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Ryan Gonsalves making a name for himself in motorsports

Ryan Gonsalves making a name for himself in motorsports

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by Jamila Soso-Vincent 17.OCT.08

Flashy, fast cars. Wealth. Non-stop partying. And, of course, beautiful women.

Whether true to reality or not, this is the image that Tinsel Town portrays of the world of car racing. For the talented young racer Ryan Gonsalves, this isn’t the case… or at least not yet.{{more}}

Twenty-year-old Ryan first came to the nation’s attention when he began competing regionally on the go-karting scene – at the tender age of eight! The then pint-sized driver became a regular in Vincentian and Barbadian newspapers for winning races against competitors up to twice his age. SEARCHLIGHT featured a 10-year-old Ryan in the November 27, 1998, issue when he won Go-Kart Champion Driver for the second half (June – December) of that season. In 2002, he won Go-Kart Champion Driver for both seasons that year and, naturally, won Driver of the Year in the 310 class.

The son of Lennox and Carol Gonsalves, Ryan is adamant that his father was the instigator of his passion for racing. He recalls that it all began when his father bought him a red ‘Power Wheels’ jeep at age two. Following that, he bought Ryan a Go-kart when he was old enough to operate it. The vehicles kept being upgraded from then on. This comes as no surprise, as his father, Lennox ‘Becks’ Gonsalves, is a veteran circuit racer. “I guess he wanted me to follow in his footsteps,” Ryan mused.

This laid-back young man was, and still is, a popular face at Bushy Park on the St. Philip, Barbados, racing circuit. The popularity, however, did not affect his education. On successfully completing his Common Entrance Examinations, he attended the St. Martin’s Secondary – from Forms 1 to 3, then completed Forms 4 and 5 at the St. Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua. He then opted to start working in the family business, Gonsalves Liquors, instead of attending an institution of further education. Ryan hopes to pursue tertiary studies in the field of Business Management, Marketing or Accounting at some point in the near future. Until then, he is content to work with his father, describing his role as that of a ‘jack of all trades’.

Ryan is still actively feeding his appetite for car racing. Although he dabbles in Go-kart racing from time to time, his main focus is on circuit racing. Driving a Mazda RX7, which was once owned by Bill Auberlen and has won several events at circuits in Japan and the U.S, Ryan’s last outing was at Bushy Park in September 2008. He gained two 3rd-place positions in his class. Unfortunately, his team suffered engine problems and was unable to compete in the third race. Despite that, Ryan managed to qualify third overall.

With his sights set on reaching Formula One racing level, Ryan definitely wants to make a career out of the sport. “That would be nice… getting paid for it… can’t lose!” he chuckled. However, he is mindful that Formula One drivers are usually scouted at around age 16 or 17. That being said, he is still aiming for the top. “Formula one is the goal, but if not, I’d do some prototype racing in the States…”

According to Clifton Henry, Public Relations Officer of the Barbados Auto-racing League, Ryan has the potential to reach very far in the realm of car racing. Henry predicted that Ryan will do even better as time goes by. “He’s one of the best young talents in the Caribbean right now!” Henry also related Ryan’s impressive performance at a recent meet in Trinidad and Tobago. “Ryan is a very cool guy… he doesn’t get flustered easily.” Henry acknowledged that Ryan has recently been suffering engine problems with his Mazda, but is confident that once that issue has been resolved he will be back on fine form. Racer and navigator Giselle Marville-Layne echoed his sentiments. She was adamant that with the engine fixed and more practice, Ryan will be: “…a force to be reckoned with!”

In car racing, danger of physical injury is an unfortunate bedfellow of the glory of success. Ryan admitted that he has crashed his vehicle several times whilst competing, but has been fortunate to never have been hospitalised. His worst injury, thus far, came when he once flipped over in his Go-Kart and fell out – suffering mild injury to his hip and a lot of bruising.

Ryan listed his other interests as street bikes, working on cars, boats and relaxing at home. “I love my bed!” he laughed. He also has a passing interest in cooking. “I do a little cooking. I won’t starve, but I’m not too good at it either.” His favourite Formula One driver being Lewis Hamilton, Ryan looks up to racers such as Mark Viera, from Guyana, Doug Maloney, from Barbados, Michael Schumacher and, of course, “…the old man”. Growing up, Ryan’s idol was NASCAR racer Rusty Wallace – hence his nickname of ‘Rusty’ on the regional circuit racing scene.

Should he ever have any children, whether male or female, Ryan assured SEARCHLIGHT that he would be encouraging them to take up car racing. “It’s a good discipline… it takes up your time and keeps you out of trouble,” he advised.

Given his passion for the sport and his determination to succeed, it would come as no surprise to hear that Ryan Gonsalves is making serious waves. After all, it is apparent that the skill for car racing courses through his veins. Something so intrinsic is bound to produce greatness.