With four weeks to go before entries close for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, Sol Rally Barbados (June 4/5), the on-line total reached the new overall entry cap of 100 on Thursday . . . but the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is urging those still keen to take part to go on-line and enter before Friday May 6.
The make-up of the entries received on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.bb – is similar to previous years: approaching 30 overseas crews, split between the rest of the Caribbean and further afield – for the first time, there are entries from Australia and Germany - are heading for the island to take on what could be the biggest-ever local representation in the BRC’s blue riband event.
Currently, there are more than 70 local entries, including around 10 who are either newcomers to the sport or competitors returning after a lay-off of some years. Significantly, there remain a number of regular competitors, particularly from the wider Caribbean, who have not yet registered, so the entry list is expected to grow.
Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Barry Gale, a five-time class-winner on the island’s premier event, but taking a break from competition this year, is delighted: “What can I say? It is remarkable - despite the enormous financial difficulties faced by everyone over the past two or three years, rallying in Barbados is, as the Chocolate Akita (aka Bajan sideways star, Andrew Jones) would say, ‘tight’!
“Our decision to increase the maximum start list to 100 was largely made to ensure that we could accommodate the continued regional and international interest – of this year’s overseas crews, nine are new to the event, also we have not experienced the level of withdrawals we saw in 2010. By this time last year, we had lost six of the early overseas entries, all through financial pressures, this year we have lost just two.”
While welcoming the healthy support, Gale was at pains to emphasise the qualifications for entry to the island’s premier event: “In recent years, we have introduced rules to ensure that competitors have an appropriate level of experience – our local crews must have competed in at least one special stage rally, which will have given both driver and co-driver some vital background in how these events are run. There is a big difference between doing three or four runs at a Sunday morning speed event and tackling the logistics of two days on Sol Rally Barbados!”
Overseas competitors working hard on preparation
Competitors on both sides of the Atlantic are hard at work preparing for Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5). England’s Rob Swann has been testing the Subaru Impreza WRC S12 for his step up to the Modified 8-WRC class from Group N, which he won in both Barbados and Rally Jamaica last year.
Although his day at the Llandow race circuit in South Wales was affected by rain, he was delighted with his progress: “It was a wet test to start, but dried later in the day, giving a good all-round feel for the car in different conditions. After some slow runs to acclimatise, we did some launch starts and some fast runs of the circuit - the grip and balance of the car was amazing; compared with my N14, the biggest difference is in power delivery and braking.
“We had a prodrive engineer on hand, along with Melyvn and his crew, to assist with fuel changes and remapping for Barbados. Their experience was very useful to get me up to speed with the car and set-up procedures. I know there is still a lot to learn, but feel we have made a good start - I am really looking forward to King of the Hill.” Melvyn Evans Motorsport will now re-prep the car ready for shipping at month-end.
Nearer home, Rally Trinidad (April 1-3) gave Bajan Sean Gill (Suzuki SX4 WRC) a second chance to weigh up some of the opposition, albeit on the loose not tarmac – having finished second to local ace Gary Gregg (Ford Focus WRC05) in Jamaica last December, he finished second to Gregg’s fellow countryman Jeff Panton (Focus WRC00).
Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) finished an impressive third overall, comfortably winning Group N from David Coelho (Evo IX) and Stuart Johnson (Impreza N12). All three are expected in Barbados, although Powell, who is yet to enter, should be back in his Impreza WRC S12.
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