John Sealy

John Sealy

As both competitor and organiser, a tireless worker

Unlike those best-remembered for their race track or rally stage exploits, John Sealy is one whose contributions behind the scenes are his trademark. A committee member as early as 1962, he served as Club Chairman in the 1980s, and as Trustee in more recent times; Clerk of the Course at Bushy Park in the 1970s and the ‘90s, his all-round motor sport experience is unrivalled to this day – he became Secretary-General of the island’s governing body, the Barbados Motoring Federation, in 2005.

That said, he competed for more than 30 years, first in the early 1960s in dexterity tests, at the wheel of a Riley 1.5; this was subsequently changed for a Fiat 127, in which he could reach remarkable angles of lean without actually falling over (see below!). Then there was a Daihatsu Charade Turbo – “I was spotted cleaning this in the dead of night at a Bulkeley Factory Yard stopover, in case Barbara turned up to find out where her new car of just three weeks had gone!” – and, finally, a Peugeot 205XS. Finally, that is, until he acquired a Land Rover Defender to tackle the current Safari Championship.

He was in the first Club party to rally abroad, in Jamaica in 1966, and is one of only three competitors before the Safari era to have won the June Rally from both sides of the car – in 1967, he navigated in Bill Mallalieu’s Alfa Romeo Sprint, then they swapped seats, Malllalieu pointing Sealy in the right direction in the Fiat in 1978.

But Sealy was unusual in being able to bring the experience of his day job to bear on his leisure time; he began a 46-year career in insurance shortly after returning home from service in the British Army in 1959 – when the Club first introduced safety recommendations, his paratrooper’s helmet from that period served well, he remembers, “until they shamed me into getting a proper crash helmet by offering to have a whip-round so they could buy it.”

And his expertise in the field of insurance has been of great value to island motor sport in recent times, as health and safety legislation has meant that clubs have been facing ever-greater challenges in the staging of events, while competitors have been almost written off by their insurers. That there is a all-encompassing plan for insurance that gives motor sport in Barbados a strong chance of sustainability is thanks to the work of John Sealy, described by another Club stalwart as “the glue that often held the Club together in difficult times.”

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