One of Northern Ireland’s most flamboyant – and successful – rear-wheel-drive exponents, Frank Kelly, will rally in the Caribbean twice in 2014 to experience both gravel and tarmac events. It is part of his plan to conquer this year’s Sol Rally Barbados.
Tomorrow he flies south to prepare for the flowing loose-surface stages of Rally Trinidad the following weekend, and will return just a few weeks later to compete in the region’s biggest annual motor sport international, Sol Rally Barbados.
The Barbados Rally Club is this year celebrating the 25th running of its premier event, which began as the International All-Stage Rally in 1990. This year’s event is scheduled for May 30 and June 1, with the Scotiabank King of the Hill and Simpson Motors scrutineering the previous weekend on May 24 and 25.
An alarm and security engineer from Dungannon in County Tyrone, Kelly started rallying in 1993 in a Ford Fiesta, which came to a violent end in the Mid Antrim Forest Rally in 2001 with Kelly sustaining a broken collar bone and the Fiesta being written off.
Since switching to Escorts, he has won a string of titles in Ireland, Scotland and across the United Kingdom on both gravel and tarmac, including the BTRDA Silver Star Championship in 2008, the UK’s most prestigious title for two-wheel-drive cars.
In the past two years, having concentrated on rallying at home, he has twice won the Carlow Car Club’s MkII Challenge, and was the overall winner of the 2012 Todds Leap Ulster National Rally, beating a number of four wheel drives cars in what he considers one of the best drives of his career.
In 2012, he also won the MkII and two-wheel drive titles in Ireland’s Dunlop National Rally Championship, and was named British Motorsport Marshals Club’s Driver of the Year at last year’s Association of Northern Ireland Car Club’s Prize-giving, an award presented by the body of marshals to the driver who has entertained them most.
Since 2008, Kelly has campaigned the Group 4 Ford Escort MkII, ‘Baby Blue’, which he will drive in Trinidad and Barbados; powered by a 2.5-litre 310bhp engine, and built and prepared by himself.