Regional interest in Sol Rally Barbados 2014 is growing steadily with three more crews confirmed to join Jamaica’s Jeff Panton, the 1998 winner fighting for overall honours in his Ford Focus WRC06. David Coelho will represent Trinidad and Tobago, while the flag of the Turks & Caicos islands will be flown by Stan Hartling and Paul Horton.
Nearly 80 entries have been posted on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international scheduled for May 31 and June 1, with scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 24/25).
Coelho is upbeat about his fourth visit to Barbados, despite failing to finish in any of his previous attempts. Following their best-ever domestic season – second in class and third overall in the eight-round 2013 Trinidad & Tobago Rally Club Championship – he and co-driver James Harris will return with a totally refreshed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.
The former Trinidad Kart Champion said: “In the last five events, we had one win, three second places and one third, with no good consistency and reasonably good speed. The key now is to try to replicate that consistency on tarmac. Hopefully, the car will be a bit quicker and lighter than last year. We run in Group A in Trinidad but, on account of the sequential box and active diffs, we will be slotted back into WRC-2 in Barbados.”
Coelho’s first season in rallying was 2010 and Sol RB10 his first event away from home.
“As you can imagine, it was quite the experience, we learnt a lot. The second year, things went wrong from the beginning, mechanically, but we still had a blast.”
Having missed Sol Rally Barbados 2012, Coelho was back last year.
“We felt really good during King of the Hill and were pleased with the car and starting seeded 29 for Rally Barbados 2013. With a couple of years of event experience under our belts, we were looking forward to the weekend, then disaster struck on the second stage on Saturday morning. A gearbox mount broke in a way that was completely un-repairable and, as simple as that, our rally was done – the entire team was crushed, as it seemed a cruel way to exit, but we made the best of it. We love the event, everything about it and plan to keep coming back.”
Turks & Caicos-based Paul Horton is another to have failed to finish in his first three attempts at Sol Rally Barbados, but it all came good last year, fulfilling his pre-event promise.
“I really want to finish the whole event, as we haven’t done that in three years.”
He and local co-driver Kris Yearwood finished 27th overall and second in Modified 7 in the Ford Escort MkI.
Despite retiring his Honda Civic from Sol Rally Barbados 2010 with mechanical problems, Horton enjoyed his first experience so much that he became a regular competitor in the BRC championship, finishing second in M7 in the Escort last year.
His good friend Stan Hartling – they share experience of the iconic Targa Newfoundland – finally made his first appearance in the island in Sol Rally Barbados 2012, having pulled his BMW M3 entry of the previous year because of business commitments. Hartling and Canadian co-driver Andy Proudfoot entertained island fans in the unusual mid-engined Lotus Exige, until mechanical issues forced them out on day one.
Hartling stated: “We are very excited and looking forward to being involved again. I now have an E36 M3 – the Zero car from last year – and Jonathan Still will prep for me. I think it will be a sensible entry ride for us, as this year will be more focused on getting safely acclimatised and into the flow of running there.”