RALLY CARS HELP DRIVE THE ECONOMY

Bds $2 million-plus injection from Barbados Rally Carnival

When Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 747-400 from London Gatwick lands at Grantley Adams International Airport tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday), Barbados Rally Carnival 2005 will be well and truly under way . . . and, with it, another major injection of foreign exchange from the motor sport community to help drive the economy of Barbados.

Including those arriving this year for the fifth Rally Carnival, more than 150 overseas competitors have been attracted to the island since 2001 by the chance to combine their favourite sport with a relaxing holiday. With each competing crew arriving from Europe - also from countries around the region, particularly Jamaica - have come family and team personnel, plus a posse of supporters, bringing the total visitor numbers over the Carnival's five years to around 4000.

And the media have been following in their wheel-tracks! Each year, Barbados Rally Carnival has enjoyed significant television coverage throughout Europe on Sky Sports, while regional broadcast, print and electronic media all over the UK cover the exploits of local competitors, all this combining to carry images of Barbados into the homes of millions of potential holidaymakers.

In 2005, both of Britain's leading weekly motor sport publications - Autosport and Motorsport News - have staff members travelling to Barbados, while monthly magazines from Japan and the United States will also be represented. New to the island this year is Europe's most-watched TV travel programme VoxTours, while www.crash.net - just one of many web sites worldwide that cover Rally Carnival - will broadcast live on its increasingly-popular web-based radio station.

Barbados Rally Carnival comprises two international motor sport events on consecutive weekends: the Vaucluse Raceway International RallySprint (May 21/22) is a mixed-surface competition on a three-kilometre figure-of-eight course in the parish of St Thomas; Rally Barbados 2005 (May 28/29) is a two-day closed-road tarmac rally, which is run at seven special-stage venues island-wide.

Particularly for the benefit of the European visitors, there is a calendar of social and sight-seeing events to allow them to get to know Barbados, taking in local attractions varying from the pirate ship Jolly Roger to Harbour Lights.

The majority of European competitors, their families and supporters will stay for two weeks, although a number of repeat visitors - these include the popular Englishman Martin Stockdale, who becomes the only driver to have attended all five Carnivals - have extended their stay to three weeks. And many previous competitors have returned to the island for family holidays during the peak winter season, including Kenny Hall and Steve Perez.

Most of the regional competitors will stay for shorter periods although, based on the experience of the past two years, the Caribbean representation will jump dramatically next week, as hundreds of supporters will arrive in time for Rally Barbados weekend.

In terms of tourist days spent in the island, Rally Carnival is directly responsible for foreign exchange earnings in excess of Bds $1,000,000 . . . but these are no ordinary tourists! On top of the usual expenditure on hotels, food, drink and attractions, there are considerable additional costs related to their competing in the two events. These include requirements such as AvGas or pump fuel for rally cars and service vehicles, provisions for the team personnel over the two weekends of competition, plus the shipment of their cars from Europe or around the region.

In addition to the foreign exchange earnings, there is also a major investment by the organisers, marketing partners and competitors in Barbados Rally Carnival and its two constituent events, all injected directly into the island economy.

The budget for staging Rally Barbados and the previous weekend's VRW International RallySprint is approaching Bds $200,000, while the allied promotional and marketing spend by sponsors is calculated to be a further Bds $50,000. Each of the 60 local crews competing in Rally Barbados will spend an average of $4,000 on necessities such as insurance, AvGas or pump fuel, servicing, bodywork and spare parts - another Bds $240,000.

And the final area of major spending is among the spectators. Police estimates suggest that approaching 25,000 people turn out to watch the island-wide special stages during Rally Barbados weekend, while around one-third of that number are expected for the VRW International RallySprint. Adding in an average spent on items such as gasoline or diesel, food and drink and rally souvenirs at the two events at a conservative Bds $20, then the total spent locally the two weekends of the Barbados Rally Carnival comfortably exceeds Bds $1,000,000.

Rally Carnival founder Greg Cozier says: "Over the five years of the Carnival, Barbados has struck a chord with a growing number of overseas competitors, many of whom have returned time and again. Their affection for the island has grown, in large part, thanks to the extremely warm welcome they have received here . . . and not only from motor sport enthusiasts, but also in hotels, restaurants and so on.

"The fact that their presence is also assisting to boost the economy is a real bonus . . . but possibly the most valuable contribution of all is the media coverage the event has attracted, and continues to attract, particularly on television across Europe. And we can't put a figure on the value of that!"

Rally Barbados 2005 is organised by the Barbados Rally Club in association with Automotive Art Shell, Banks Breweries, Da Costa Mannings Autocentre, DMS Distributors.com, McEnearney Quality, Simpson Motors, Texaco West Indies and Total Sport. The event is supported by Abacus Builders, The Boatyard, Nassco, SBI Distributors, Stoute's Car Rental and Williams Equipment. The Vaucluse Raceway International RallySprint is organised by the Vaucluse Raceway Motorsport Club.