POWER HIKE FOR STOCKDALE'S FIFTH VISIT

Finlayson calls Barbados Rally Carnival "un-missable"

When crowd favourite Martin Stockdale returns from England on a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 packed with European rally teams next Wednesday, he will become the only overseas driver to have contested the Barbados Rally Carnival every year since its launch in 2001.

And 'Mad-dale', as he's known to local enthusiasts, has a little surprise in store for the opposition . . . under the bonnet of his self-built BMW M3GTR is a new, more powerful, engine. Stockdale already has a good pedigree in Barbados, having won his class twice on Rally Barbados, and taken home the DMS Distributors.Com Sunday Cup last year.

From the first time he arrived on these shores, he has been one of the most popular Carnival regulars: the personable Englishman has entered fully into the spirit of Rally Carnival . . . and, of course, he drives a BMW! Stockdale says: "The first Beemer was a great car, which created a lot of interest wherever we went . . . especially in Barbados. We replaced the original 2.5-litre engine with a 3-litre M3 unit, but sold that car, and decided on something more extravagant.

"My latest creation started life with a 4-litre V8, but that engine has now been replaced with one slightly larger in capacity - 4.9 litres - that develops approximately 400bhp. We do all the work on the car ourselves and, without Julian's fantastic help, I wouldn't have the car ready for Barbados."

Stockdale enjoys an intense rivalry, and close friendship, with Bajan BMW ace Jonathan Still, who enjoyed the experience of shaving Stockdale's moustache at the RB04 prize-giving after the Englishman lost his bet with the local man as to who would achieve the better overall result. The Plasterland/Drive-a-Matic BMW will again have Mark Swallow as co-driver.

And Stockdale is not the only British driver to return with an upgrade in equipment. His team-mate Hugh Peat, back for his third visit, has a whole new car for Rally Carnival 2005! His Mark II Escort, which he drove with great gusto here for the past two years, has been set aside in favour of the more modern Plasterland/Jordan Road Surfacing Ford Escort Cosworth.

Peat explains: "It was originally built by Dome Motorsport as a Group N four-wheel-drive car, which competed in the RAC Rally in the mid-1990s; now it has been modified as a rear-wheel-drive car, with the engine developing around 270bhp. I've only had the car a short while, but am really looking forward to coming back to Barbados to share some white rum . . . oh, and to do some rallying as well!"

Peat has a new co-driver this year in Tom Jordan, whose younger brother Richard and their father Barry competed in last year's Rally Carnival in an ex-Roger Clark Mark I Escort.

Another of Rally Carnival's British regulars - Graeme Finlayson - has also been fiddling with the specification of his GCR Communications/Red Line Oils Fluke WR1C, the lightweight motorcycle-engined open two-seater in which he achieved a finish in Rally Barbados last year at the third attempt; respected local co-driver Jamal Brathwaite will again co-drive.

Scottish-born Finlayson says: "The event has become a welcome addiction, the mix of fantastic competition, sun and rum makes it un-missable each year. The locals ensure that all the competitors are completely at home and also keep them on their toes in the driving stakes."

Many changes have been made to the car, including short gearing, an updated Mistral Yamaha R1 engine - producing 190bhp - bespoke exhaust by bike specialists Promotive and a Pro-Shift auto-throttle-blip downshift system, which completes the car's semi-automatic gearbox set-up.

And it has better lights, too. Finlayson added: "The lighting system was woefully underpowered, despite running a pod of ultra-xenons, but the Bajan nights were so dark that we were losing time hand over fist at night."

All three cars will be competing in the Super Modified classes, the former Open Modified classification now split into four, as will another returnee, back for his third Rally Carnival, Andrew Costin-Hurley. The former Andrew Hurley, whose name change reflects his marriage last September to Melissa Costin - they got engaged during Barbados Rally Carnival 2003 - returns with no major changes to his 300bhp Cosworth-powered CA-Automotive/Earl's/Post Paintworks Ford Puma Evo, in which he finished second in Group B in RB04. Co-driver this year will be experienced Englishman Bryan Hull, another regular visitor.