For a week in December Nassau is the scene of a special merry-go-round of gaiety. Besides the customary Bahamian ingredients of bathing, water skiing and partying, there is the added stimulation of a first-rate sports car racing meet. Mixed in with the crowd next week will be 120 or so topnotch drivers, and from the Royal Victoria to the Silver Slipper the talk will be of cams and valves and gears. But there are sights to be seen as well, conch fritters to be eaten and calypso bands to be heard. And, as indicated on these pages, girl-watching to be done. With all this funmaking, however, there is still the serious business of races to be won. A solid favorite from Great Britain will be Stirling Moss (right), the heir apparent to World Champion Juan Fangio, driving a potent three-liter Maserati. From Spain comes the Marquis de Portago (see left), he of the No. 13 devil's-red Ferrari, who is said to have tempered his loud-pedal foot and matured appreciably as a driver since he played el toro in winning last year's Nassau Governor's Cup race. A comer on the exacting Grand Prix circuit and winner of the automobile Tour de France, the Spaniard is always a colorful contender.
Colin Chapman, builder of the smart and swift little English Lotus racers, will drive one of them. Chapman delighted the London Motor Show crowds, incidentally, with his new Formula II single-seater, which is expected to be an outstanding competitor in 1,500-cc. racing next year.
Less well known, but well mounted, are Jean Lucas of France and Jan de Vroom of The Netherlands, who will drive Ferraris.
Against this thin, but redoubtable, European expedition, the United States will send a talented first team of drivers backed by a strong bench.
In the forefront will be Carroll Shelby, the angular Texan whose absolute domination of the Sports Car Club of America schedule was the big news of 1956, and Phil Hill, winner of last year's Nassau Trophy race, who is perhaps a shade slower than Shelby. Each will drive a Ferrari.
Masten Gregory, the frequently very fast but unpredictable Kansas Citian who was the star of Nassau's inaugural meeting in 1954, will return, driving a Ferrari. The veteran Johnny Fitch will pilot one of Briggs Cunningham's D Jaguars, and young Bob Said will be at the wheel of a Ferrari.
These five Americans have all campaigned in Europe at one time or another. In the European season just past, Hill co-drove the winning Ferrari in the world championship Swedish Grand Prix for sports cars. Shelby will join the strong Italian Maserati team next June after making one of the road-racing fraternity's infrequent assaults on the Indianapolis "500."
Also from the U.S. will be such familiar drivers as Paul O'Shea (Mercedes 300SL), Jim Kimberly (Osca), Lou Brero (D Jaguar), Dick Thompson (with the new fuel-injection Corvette), John von Neumann (Ferrari), Bill Lloyd (Maserati), Charles Wallace (300SL), Ernie Erick-son (D Jaguar), Ed Crawford (Porsche Spyder) and Jack McAfee (Porsche Spyder).
If the entry list is loaded with hot drivers, the machinery they will handle is no less impressive: 21 Ferraris, six D Jaguars, four Maseratis, 12 Porsche Spyders, and a sprinkling of 300SLs, Oscas, Alfa Romeos, Corvettes, Austin-Healeys, Arnolt-Bristols, Triumphs, Frazer-Nashes, Panhards, ACs, Coopers, Lotuses, Abarths, and one-of-a-kind specials.
Nassau's Windsor Field airport course is an invitation to the leadfoot—three and a half miles of long straights and fast bends on which Hill's 3.5-liter Ferrari last year averaged 98.2 mph in the feature 210-mile race. This will be the last year for Windsor Field. Next year: Oakes Course.
The main events next week will be the Governor's Cup, in two divisions at 20 laps each, and the Nassau Trophy, the 210-mile fixture. Cars of less than two liters displacement will race in the first section of the Governor's Cup, those of more than two liters in the second. Between Friday's Governor's Cup and Sunday's Nassau Trophy will be a spirited Saturday schedule of five-lap sprints especially for Jaguars, Porsches, Ferraris, the Bahamians and women drivers.
A new fillip this year will be a series of world-speed-record attempts from a standing start.
And if that isn't enough speed for the sporting tourist he can stay on for another week to witness the first international hydroplane regatta on the waters of Lake Cunningham. Fifty contenders will crease the 2.5-mile oval Lake Cunningham course for prizes in six classes ranging up to seven liters. There will be speed trials, as well, on a mile-long straight course. Class B hydroplanes will churn from Miami to Nassau in a 182-mile opening event on Dec. 4.
Sun, sand and sea Nassau has in abundance, but in December these elemental attractions take a back seat to the piston engine, and on land and water speed is sovereign.