Chris Armstrong and Wayne Clarke have done it again.
The winners of the opening round of the Barbados Rally Club’s MudDogs Safari Championship back in March, Armstrong and Clarke added a second victory to their tally on Sunday when they defeated all-comers – and the elements – in the Shelbury Construction September Safari.
Driving a Toyota Hilux, the championship leaders delivered a consistent performance to outwit their rivals, despite winning neither route, finishing second in the morning and fifth in the afternoon. Their total of 518 penalties made for a winning margin of 128 over Mark Western and Robin Hinds (Nissan Patrol), who led home one of the closest-fought battles in recent memory – five crews covered by just 40 penalties.
For Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’Neal (Isuzu D-Max), winners of the championship’s other two rounds and potentially Armstrong and Clarke’s closest rivals in the title chase, things did not go so well. After a delay in route one left them 10th at the lunch halt at Chefette, Six Roads, even victory in route two by a margin of more than 100 penalties could not lift them higher than eighth by the end of the day.
Alleyne and O’Neal were not the only ones to suffer, stuck with other crews in a gully near Easy Hall, an area notoriously difficult to cross, especially when wet. Indeed, the weather played its part to the full, as MudDogs Chairman Warren Gollop explained.
“The day was very challenging for everyone, starting with the pouring rain in the morning, followed by the constant drizzle and then the searing heat of the afternoon! It was not a day for the casual competitor or fan.”
Route-setters were Biddy Barber and Warrick Eastmond.
“Over the years we have been doing the same things, we wanted to do something different. One example was at Six Roads – lots of people were stuck there trying to plot. We tried to make people think and wanted to keep them on their toes,” Eastmond indicated
Eastmond’s plan, which included use of the club’s own BRC method of navigation, had clearly worked, as winning navigator Clarke said: “It was a nice rally, really challenging. The BRC at Six Roads had me thrown for a while and I lost 10 to 15 minutes.”
In the Chefette MudDogs Novice Safari Championship, Damien Johnson and Daniel Christie claimed their first-ever win in a Suzuki Samurai, finishing 11th overall. At the end of the morning route, they had trailed Johnny Pinto and Nick Branson (Suzuki Jimny) by less than 100 penalties, but Pinto/Branson slipped back in the afternoon, to fifth of the novice crews.
Johnson and Christie finished ninth overall on route two, ahead of a number of more experienced crews, and claimed a winning margin of 130 points over Pinto/ Branson, with the consistent Dominic Straker and Matthew Ward (Nissan Patrol) third.
The highest-placed female competitor was teenager Shane Marshall, who was navigating for father Paul in the family’s Mitsubishi L200 – after a stunning morning performance to lead after route one, they slipped to seventh at the end of the day.