Ace driver Roger “The Sheriff” Skeete, 13-time overall winner of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, and former United Kingdom national rally champion Roger Duckworth –– fifth overall and winner of WRC-2 for the past two years –– have confirmed their participation in Sol Rally Barbados 2015 from May 29 to 31, bringing the four-wheel-drive entry to 18.
Skeete’s record-breaking roster of victories book-end the BRC’s 25th anniversary celebrations. He won in 1990 in a Peugeot 205GTi, then claimed his 13th win last year in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12, sponsored, among others, by Sol and LIME, which has this year become title sponsor of the previous weekend’s King of the Hill.
Skeete is as keen to contest the island’s premier event this year as he was 25 years ago, when his membership of the BRC’s Committee of Management was instrumental in the start of special stage rallying in the island.
“The rally means a lot to me. In one of our monthly meetings back in the day, Andrew Phillips said words to the effect that if I wanted a special stage rally, a concept far removed from the club’s idea of a rally at the time, I would need to go out and find the sponsorship to cover the expenses. So I did,” Skeete said.
Skeete will again be partnered by co-driver Louis Venezia, with whom he shared wins in 2010, 2011 and last year, when he re-asserted the home team’s authority, after Britain’s Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC08) had claimed back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013.
On the sidelines at last Sunday’s first island event, the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s Spring Blaze, Skeete said: “A number of items are still in the UK being rebuilt, and we are ensuring all avenues are explored in trying to make the launch control reliable. I am really looking forward to Sol Rally Barbados 2015 and completing the 25th Anniversary celebrations by keeping the trophy at home.”
Bird and co-driver Aled Davies are confirmed, as are Britain’s Rob Swann and Darren Garrod, who claimed their first Barbados podium last year, second in Swann’s recently-acquired Impreza WRC S11. Announcements in the coming weeks are expected to further strengthen the four-wheel-drive entry.
Duckworth’s fifth visit not only boosts the competition at the sharp end of the field, but is also a triumph for the event’s sports-tourism promotions. Since his win on the UK’s Rallye Sunseeker National gifted him a Sol Rally Barbados 2011 prize drive, he has not missed a year, turning the trip into a family holiday . . . and other prize-winners have come back, too.
Sol Rally Barbados chairman Mark Hamilton stated: “Through our partnerships with the Barbados Tourism Authority, as it was then, and the Tourism Development Corporation, we have offered Sol Rally Barbados trips as prizes. Roger has been coming back ever since he won, and winning marshals and spectators have also returned in subsequent years, just bowled over by the welcome and the rally vibe in the island.”
The former United Kingdom champion’s co-driver in the Intrinsys Subaru Impreza WRC S6 will be Mark Broomfield, who first rallied with Duckworth in 1991. They finished fifth overall last year, winning WRC-2, Duckworth’s second victory in the class catering for pre-2004 World Cars, improving on seventh and sixth overall in his first two visits.
Since Sol Rally Barbados 2014, Duckworth has seen little action, having retired from Wales Rally GB National last November when a severe landing after a jump on the third stage resulted in Broomfield being airlifted to hospital, suffering from whiplash, although he was soon discharged. They will shake down the car on March 29 in the Alan Healy Memorial Cadwell Park Stages, which Duckworth won in 2012, with Aled Davies as co-driver.