There will be a number of firsts when this weekend’s Sol Rally Barbados 2014 revs off.
The final running order for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport event lists 84 crews from 14 countries with a record-equalling 13 entries in the WRC classes. For the first time in its 25-year history, the island’s premier event will kick off with a Friday night special stage, using the redeveloped Bushy Park Circuit.
When the venue was confirmed last month, rally director Neil Barnard said that since the ceremonial start at Simpson Motors in 2009, they had been looking for a way of starting the event on Friday evening. He noted that experiment was met with mixed reactions, but one message came over loud and clear from competitors and spectators alike.
“The one thing that was missing was action! Well, we can guarantee action this year.”
He explained that three venues in the north of the island would each be used four times on Saturday, with the final loop of three run after nightfall, another change to the format encouraged by competitors. Sunday is a much shorter day, with 10 stages at three venues in the island’s south-east corner, four of them ending inside the Bushy Park Circuit, including the weekend’s final stage, which will include the Rallycross jump.
The total stage distance is 128 kilometres, an increase of more than ten per cent over Sol Rally Barbados 2013.
With seeding based on the results of last Sunday’s Scotiabank King Of The Hill, Paul Bird and Aled Davies will start at number one in the Ford Focus WRC08. The former UK national rally champion will be chasing a hat-trick of wins. At two is 12-time winner Roger Skeete, co-driven in the Subaru Impreza WRC S12 by Louis Venezia, with number three carried by Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennell Jnr (Ford Focus WRC06). Third in Sol Rally Barbados 2012 and second last year, the Jamaican crew are hoping the climb up the podium continues.
For the second year running, Roger and Barry Mayers are the top two wheel-drive seeds. Starting at 10 in the WR Starlet, with Dane Skeete/Tyler Mayhew (Rubis/Williams Trading Inc/LIME/Michelin Peugeot 306 Maxi) at 11 and Josh Read/Mark Jordan in the Stihl/Toyota Starlet at 12.
In addition to the battle for overall and two-wheel drive supremacy, there will be 15 separate classes contested, in most of which island competitors will enjoy the challenge
of pitting their skills against regional or international entries. There will be 28 International and five regional entries. There will be 59 International drivers or co-drivers, 22 new to the event, as well as 12 drivers or co-drivers from the wider Caribbean, one new to the event
Meanwhile Jamaica’s Hugh Hutchinson, who won Rally Barbados in 2006 with fellow-countryman Gary Gregg in his ex-Carlos Sainz Ford Focus WRC02, is a last-minute substitute for Sol Rally Barbados 20114. With regular co-driver Nicholas Telfer now unable to make the trip, Trinidad’s John Powell (Focus WRC08) has recruited Hutchinson as co-driver. Hutchinson has competed in the event 10 times since 1998, most recently in 2011, when he and Gregg retired from sixth place with mechanical issues.They had also finished third in 2003 & 2008.
Greg Cozier’s co-driver will now be Jamie Marsh, returning to the left-hand seat of his Historic class Ford Escort RS2000 after a break of a couple of years. Scotland’s Allan Mackay was expecting his old two-litre engine to land in Barbados today, shipped out to replace his new power unit, which faulted on Sunday. The engine change moves the Ford Anglia WRC back into SuperModified 10.
Top 20 in running order:
1 Paul Bird – ENG/Aled Davies – WAL
(WRC-1 Ford Focus WRC08)
2 Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (
WRC-1 Subaru Impreza WRC S12)
3 Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM
(WRC-1 Ford Focus WRC06)
4 Rob Swann – ENG/Darren Garrod – WAL
(WRC-1 Subaru Impreza WRC S11)
5 Paul Bourne/Stuart Loudon – SCO
(WRC-1 Ford Focus WRC07)
6 John Powell – TRI/Hugh Hutchinson – JAM
(WRC-1 Ford Focus WRC08)
7 Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (WRC-1 Suzuki SX4 WRC)
8 Roger Duckworth – ENG/Mark Broomfield – ENG
(WRC-2 Subaru Impreza WRC S6)
9 Kevin Procter – ENG/Philip Hopkins – ENG
(WRC-2 Subaru Impreza WRC S7)
10 Roger Mayers/Barry Mayers (SM10 WR Starlet)
11 Dane Skeete/Tyler Mayhew (SM11 Peugeot 306 Maxi)
12 Josh Read/Mark Jordan (SM10 Toyota Starlet)
14 Roger Hill/Graham Gittens (WRC-2 Toyota Corolla WRC)
15 Rhett Watson/James Hutchinson (SM12 BMW M3)
16 Geoff Noel/Robert Simmons (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)
17 Andrew Jones/Lindsey Pilkington – ENG
(SM11 Ford Escort MkII)
18 Rob Smith – ENG/Ross Weir – ENG
(WRC-2 Subaru Impreza)
19 Frank Kelly – NIR/Robert Cadiz – TRI
(SM11 Ford Escort MkII)
20 Ray Brammer – ENG/Gary McElhinney – IRL
(WRC-2 Subaru Impreza WRC S8) (RB)