Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton won the final two rounds of the 2014 Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Driver’s and Class Championships Sunday at the double-header Winter Tarmac Sprint in St Lucy.
Champion driver contenders Rhett Watson and Stuart White maintained their 100 per cent records for the year with two more class wins, while Daryl Clarke won in the first run, then elected to sit out the second.
Driving the Ford Focus WRC06 in which he won the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s Rally of the Sun & Stars a month ago, Panton was only beaten on one run all day, the first practice run from Josey Hill to Lamberts. Thereafter, he led the field throughout, improving his time on every run, to finish on 1m 15.23s (1.2 secs to the good) in the first direction, then 1m 14.12s (1.7secs up) in the reverse.
Using island events as part of his preparation for next month’s Rally Jamaica, Panton said: “The extra seat time with the car has really been paying off and I wish Sol Rally Barbados was next week. The sprint layout made for a very relaxed atmosphere, a big difference from the usual stressful rally. We were on the limit from the start, as we knew there could be no slacking with ‘The Sheriff’ and the ‘WRC Hunters’ around.”
Although he twice finished second to Panton, Roger “The Sheriff” Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12) was suffering from a familiar problem: “I had launch control issues once again and struggled with the unpredictability of the system, only getting a few good launches. Jeffrey was definitely quick and put in a good drive.”
Trinidad’s John Powell (Ford Focus WRC08) finished third twice, although he completed only one official run in the reverse direction after the water pump belt failed, leading to overheating.
The WRC Hunters were led by Barry Mayers, putting the family WR Starlet to good use in the absence on holiday of brother Roger; he finished fourth in both directions, winning SM10 ahead of the starlets of Neil Armstrong – the first outing for the “PitBull” in two years – and Cliff Roett. Andrew Jones was an impressive fifth overall in the first part, with just half-a-second covering his SM11 Ford Escort MkII, Watson and Armstrong.
For Watson (BMW M3) two clean runs were vital. “With the title so close between Daryl, Stuart and I, it was definitely a nervous morning. Maximum concentration was the order of the day and push from the start. After the first two runs, I checked the pace as, with Brian Gill and Justin Campbell in the mix, it was bound to be a fight to the end. As planned I managed to keep in front of them on both directions.”
Stuart White claimed two Historic class wins in the BMW 325 but it was not easy. “Wayne Archer was fast and I had my own personal issues, like meeting two pickups on the stage, so I really had to settle my head and drive my drive and not take on the distractions of the day,” he said.
The third contender for the champion driver title, Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic), was ninth overall in the morning run, ahead of four of the four-wheel-drive runners, but opted to sit out the afternoon with some car issues.
“There was some pressure, as I knew the only chance I could win the title was if Rhett came second at some point which I knew wasn’t likely, so I went out and had some fun and set some fast times,” he said.
The event ran smoothly, but for a couple of incidents. Jeremy Sisnett rolled his Ford Fiesta ST on the final morning run, while Mark Thompson made a rather greater impression on the scenery in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX on the final run of the day, both drivers shaken, but otherwise uninjured.
After a successful day, BRC competition secretary Neil Corbin said: “I would just like to say thanks to our loyal competitors for such a terrific turn-out for our final event of the year, to our marshals and officials, who ran a very slick event, and finally to the hundreds of spectators who turned out to cheer us on; their enthusiasm plays such an important part in everything that we do.”
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