For the average person, driving a car at almost 200 mph or catching air over a mound on a dirt bike is not something they think about or have much of a desire for, understandably, due to safety concerns. However, Peter Rae, OD, is not your average person.
From the mid-1960s, a young Rae was introduced to motocross or dirt bike racing by his father Clifford “Bunny” Rae, as a means to keep him occupied and away from the potential dangers youths could get into. He soon followed in his father’s footsteps participating in motocross in the United Kingdom.
“We had a big event at Up Park Camp and then on the infield of Caymanas Park and I was the top Jamaican. I came third and I was invited out to an event in Florida in 1976, thereabouts, and from there I went over to England to finish up my studies. I continued racing over there for another eight years,” the veteran racer tells JIS News.
Upon his return to Jamaica, he began racing go-karts, which was never even previously considered as he was terrified of the first go-kart his father bought him and his brothers for Christmas years before.
Young Peter, nonetheless, took go-karting all the way up to the level of racing at Dover Raceway in St. Ann where he decided to “try [his] luck” with motor racing in 1989 – something he would end up honing his skills at and doing for 50 years.
“I decided to try my luck with my brother’s MINI. It was his pride and joy. We were quite successful in campaigning that car until I found a proper race car, another MINI, built with cylinders. That was my real start with competitive racing machinery and it became known as the “Pocket Rocket” MINI or the Darling of Dover,” shares Mr. Rae.
His other race cars also earned names of their own such as the successor to the MINI, the Toyota Starlet GT Turbo, called “Starlet on Steroids”, then an earlier model Mazda purchased from Peter “Bull” Thompson called “Boombastic”. His latest car, the Mazda RX7 which Rae raced up to retirement in 2018, is nicknamed “Zoom Zoom” after the American advertising for the car. The moniker also became synonymous with the driver, giving him and the car an even greater bond.
These cars took Rae to the top of many local and international championships, earning him the coveted checkered flag, but his all-time top win would be the inaugural Cayman International Racing Event.
“My all-time win was that race, 1997 in Grand Cayman at their very first international event. I won it against a whole host of cars, including some Jamaican fellows, and it was quite something; and I won it again in 1999,” reminisces Mr. Rae.
Despite almost always finishing in the top three of his races, Peter “Zoom Zoom” Rae says it is not about winning or the prizes for him; it is about the fans and the show.
“I am not really one to look at the championships. My first and foremost aim is to entertain the fans. I normally try to outmaneuvre or pass someone on the outside of daring corners where the excitement level is great and when you come in the pit, the support you get for it, nothing beats that – not even cash beats that,” he adds.
Rae, who has been in his fair share of racing accidents and has many stories to share, acknowledges the high risk associated with participating in the sport. His accidents have led him to see the insides of hospitals around the island and also in the Cayman Islands, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, just a few of the countries where he has competed.
Peter “Zoom Zoom” Rae’s love affair with racing and knowledge of the sport have inspired him to take the ‘need for speed’ off the streets, to make Jamaica’s roadways safer and invest in the next generation of local motorsports.
The former Jamaica Racing Driver’s Club President and two-time President of Jamaica Karting Association is also the founder of Zoom Karting, the go-karting experience at the Palisaodes International Raceway and the owner of the touring brands Reggae Racers and Reggae Karters.
“My focus for now is to make Jamaican roads safer in terms of motor racing, take the need for speed off our roads. I’m doing that by carrying the experience of motor racing to ‘John Public’ through Zoom Karting. There is a need for it. People love the service; they love the facility out there and it is not just recreational karting. It is also defensive driving that teaches you how to handle your CRV on a wet road, gravel, pothole, that sort of thing,” explains Rae.
He also shares his plans to partner with public and private entities such as the HEART/NSTA Trust and Jamaica Pre-Mix Ltd., to target inner-city youth with hope, through the Zoom Karting facility.
“One of the focal points is inner-city youth where we [would be] aligning with HEART, aligning with JAGAS (Jamaican-German Automotive School) to have the youngsters come in on a Monday-Tuesday when we are preparing the facilities. Help to groom them, so others can see their potential and take them off the street so they can become mechanics, alignment guys, welders or racers. I want to give them hope, and that is what I am trying to do in my latter years,” shares Peter Rae.
For his half a century of involvement in the sport of motor racing, Mr. Rae was awarded the National Honour of Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer, conferred on National Heroes Day 2021.
While his family and friends were openly jubilant about his award from its announcement to conferment, Mr. Peter “Zoom Zoom” Rae, OD was left speechless.
“I was on cloud nine but I was somewhat speechless because to have been recognised by the Government as one worthy of this award, I can’t find the words to describe it. I only hope to use it to further my dream of taking the need for speed off our public roads,” says Mr. Rae.