Two Irish drivers who made their Caribbean debuts last year are among the six entries from the Emerald Isle now confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2013 which runs on June 1 and 2.
Their addition to the on-line entry list on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, boosts the four-wheel-drive entry to 18, more than half that number in the WRC classes.
Although both rally cars will be shipped from Ireland, the drivers approach Barbados from different directions. County Antrim farmer Joe McQuillan will travel west from Northern Ireland to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, while businessman Martin Donnelly will journey east from his base in New York.
Donnelly, who started his competition career in the mid-1990s driving a Ford Mustang, has been a regular competitor on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and twice won the Atlantic Rally Cup in the United States. Champion in 2008 and 2009, he has been a regular podium finisher on events in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee and won the Black River Stages in up-state New York three years in a row.
In last year’s Sol Rally Barbados, with co-driver Colin Fitzgerald in the Eire Concrete Inc Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Donnelly finished an impressive 22nd overall and second in Group N, the island’s Production 4 category. For this year’s rally, Fitzgerald is unavailable, so his co-driver will be fellow-Irishman Brian Docherty.
McQuillan, who has been rallying since the late 1990s and has won the Mid Antrim Motor Club Championship twice, returns with the Evolution VII prepared by Paul McGrath Motorsport and Raymond Mason, in which he finished 40th overall and third in Modified 8-A last year. For Sol Rally Barbados 2013, the car boasts a new livery, and a new co-driver, McQuillan’s partner Annette Daly.
Since last year’s event, the Evo, which started life as a Group N car, has been on a ‘diet’, alongside a development programme, as McQuillan, aka ‘The Big Man’, explained.
“Since Barbados, we have taken the car to three rally events, finished second overall in the first, but found the handling was not satisfactory, despite the result.
“We continued reducing and transferring weight for the next event, but the car was undriveable to the point of being dangerous – we still finished second overall, though. At the third event, with a new navigator and new suspension setups, it was performing very well, and it looked like we would win, until we had gearbox failure and a DNF,” he explained. (RB)