Nassau was absolutely unsurprised when Britain's great Stirling Moss won the featured race the other day during the fourth annual Speed Week, for Moss is as constant as the turquoise sea that frames the Bahamian outpost. And it was perfectly reasonable that three other major events should go to the Americans Masten Gregory, Phil Hill and Ed Crawford.
What startled and delighted the racing crowd was the spectacle served up by two girls named Denise and Ruth and a boy named Ricardo. Denise McCluggage is a gal reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and a racing driver of no little skill; Ruth Levy is a gal racing driver from California; and Ricardo Rodriguez is a 15-year-old racing driver from Mexico City who stands 5 feet 6, weighs 125, and manages to produce a shavable beard once a week.
Well, when Denise, in her Porsche 550RS, and Ruth, in the 3.7-liter Aston Martin she had borrowed from Moss, hooked up in two five-lap ladies' races on Nassau's 4.5-mile airport course, the crowd forgot all about the Briton and the rapid Americans.
As Denise dutifully reported to the Tribune, the ladies' races were said to be the most exciting of the week. "It seemed so," she wrote, "from the seat of a Porsche 550RS."
December 23, 1957
In the first heat the girls dueled fiercely, and Denise won in one of auto racing's rare and stimulating close finishes (see left), with Ruth half a car length behind. In the second heat Ruth's desperate attempt to pass Denise in the turn for home caused the Aston to careen off-course and roll. She was unhurt but Denise won again.
Young Ricardo created a sensation not by winning but by the remarkable maturity and excellence of his driving. His only master among small-car drivers at Nassau was Illinois' Crawford, and when Crawford retired with mechanical difficulties near the end of the featured 50-lap Nassau Trophy race, Ricardo finished eighth over-all and first in class with his Porsche 550RS.
As a toddler Ricardo wistfully eyed the speeding cars in the Pan-American Road Race. At 9 he took up motorcycle racing (taught by his wealthy industrialist father, Pedro, who had been a champion), and last year he moved on to sports cars, in which he is acknowledged to be Mexico's best.
Home is a sumptuous residence in Mexico City's fashionable Polanco neighborhood. On a typical day Ricardo rises at 7, breakfasts on corn flakes, chocolate milk and a vitamin pill, and drives his 1957 Chevy to school—the exclusive Instituto Alonzo de la Vera Cruz. School is out at 2 p.m., and after lunch Ricardo often goes to the movies, usually with a pretty girl. He is very popular with the girls, is Ricardo (see right), and he dances an expert cha-cha-cha. Like many of his American contemporaries, Ricardo often falls asleep before the TV screen.
When training for races Ricardo rises at 6 and zips his Porsche over the old Cuernavaca road, a perilous 35-mile stretch of mountain highway. He is a bit nervous at first in an actual race, but he says, "As long as I have an engine, I give her the gun."
It is particularly regrettable, in view of the superior racing at Nassau, that ''the meet was cheapened by a lie. Officially advertised as a five-mile course, it was in fact a 4.5-mile circuit, as the management well knew; the big race thus covered 225 rather than the announced 250 miles, and average speeds were nearer 90 mph than the announced 100-plus mph.