Germany’s Berndt Knuepfer will make history at Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5), not once, but twice: not only is he the first German to enter the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, but his Team AutoScharf Opel Astra OPC Turbo will be the first turbocharged two-wheel-drive car to run in the local Production 4 category, based on the internationally-recognised FIA Group N4.
The former National Class Rally Champion’s entry brings to 17 the countries outside the Caribbean which have been represented in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event over the past decade . . . and to 12 the currently confirmed number of European competitors making their first trip to the island.
Knuepfer will benefit from the local knowledge of experienced Bajan co-driver Jonathan Linton, who lives and works in Germany, where the entry has already attracted media coverage. Linton has high hopes for the trip: “I see this as an opportunity to stir up interest in Sol Rally Barbados, and the island; rallying is very popular in mainland Europe, and we hope this first entry from Germany will not be the last!”
Backed by Auto Dienst, Barth Bau, Stahl Seltmann and Sachs in its home events, the Astra – until recently the only turbocharged 2wd car homologated for N4 - will also be supported by Ravensden, regular sponsor of Team KickAstra, the Linton family outfit; brother Adrian will be rally his usual Modified 7 Astra. Jonathan added: “Having originally entered the older P3 Astra, the team decided this week to use the newer car, as they will not miss any major rallies and want to trade times with Adrian in a faster car.”
Knuepfer’s first experience in competition was in 1986, in motocross, and he continued in off-road events on two wheels until 1994, when he drove his first rally in a Trabant. The following year, he switched to a Peugeot 205GTi, before joining Tobias Scharf and his team in 2001, since when he has rallied exclusively in Opel Astras.
He has claimed many class wins in German rallies, was the German N3 Champion in 2004, and will be heading to Barbados on the back of two successful seasons, in which he has finished fourth (2009), then second last year in the ADMV Rally Championship.
Based in Kiel, co-driver Linton first made the connection with Scharf when the brothers bought their own Astra OPC, in which they have recorded three finishes in WRC events - Wales Rally GB twice, also Rally Finland - with Scharf’s technical and crew support. Jonathan recalls: “I was seeking help with our OPC and was very lucky to find Tobias; the service is great and the team spirit good. Rallies in the region are enjoyable and challenging, and we are made to feel really at home.”
The relationship between KickAstra and AutoScharf has also included outings on German national events, and Jonathan is entered to drive in Rallye Erzgebirge (April 8/9), in the mountainous south-east of the country; co-driver will be reigning BRC Modified 6 Champion Driver Jamal Brathwaite, a former Champion Novice Navigator in the Club’s off-road events and no stranger to the ‘other’ seat.
New ‘Clubman Class’ introduced to island rallying
Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Barry Gale is urging competitors to check out the new ‘Clubman Class’ regulations introduced for 2011; a pdf download is available in the Competitors section of the official web site, www.rallybarbados.bb.
The class has evolved from the desire of many island competitors to reduce their motor sport costs, as Gale explains: “While this is inherently an expensive sport, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, if the right rules are put in place. As Clubman Class is included in our 2011 championship, anyone who feels their car is uncompetitive in its current class is strongly encouraged to have a look to see if it is eligible.
“We certainly don’t want to stop people bringing in modern cars - if you have the budget to run a WRC car, then that’s fantastic for the whole sport; but, for those with smaller budgets, we wanted something more exciting than Production, less expensive than Modified. With things like sequential gearboxes and remote reservoir shocks banned, a big portion of the Modified expense has gone, while other provisions make many more cars competitive in the class, whether they are old or new technology . . . and much more affordable to run for an entire season.
“Engine swaps are also allowed, so people can simply have some fun without spending a ton of money modifying an older engine, when they could replace it with a newer, more powerful one. The Clubman Class is a new twist for Sol Rally Barbados, and I reckon it promises to be exciting . . . and perhaps more rewarding for those involved.”
Sol Rally Barbados (June 4/5, 2011) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 29) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB2011 is the 22nd running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the start of a second three-year term of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.
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web site: www.rallybarbados.bb