With less than two weeks to go before their cars are due to sail from Portsmouth on the English south coast for the 11-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Geest Line freighter Klipper Stream, competitors the length and breadth of the United Kingdom are making final preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2015.
Repeat visitors from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales carry to 33 the number of overseas crews confirmed, including those from around the region, with further announcements due in the coming weeks.
Among them, Ireland’s Peter Gallagher, Scotland’s Kenny Hall, Rupert Lomax from Wales and England’s Nigel Worswick have made more than 25 trips to compete in the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international.
Gallagher is making his ninth trip, bringing the Dublin Crystal-backed Peugeot 206 in which he finished 45th overall and third in Modified 6 two years ago, with regular local co-driver Rene Forde. Since he first competed in Barbados – as co-driver to Martin Taylor for the first two years – he has never failed to achieve an overall finish. He was second in Clubman last year, in the same Peugeot 306 in which he had won Production 3 in Sol Rally Barbados 2008, and has also finished second in M5 (Sol Rally Barbados 2012, Talbot Samba).
For Kenny Hall, whose 13th year competing is second only to Martin Stockdale’s record 15th visit among the international regulars, an overall finish and class result would make the trip worthwhile. After the Halltune Garage Opel Corsa retired with mechanical problems caused on his first visit in 2002, he finished first or second in class for five of the next seven years, losing a M6 certain victory in 2010, after a wrong slot in the SuperSpecial at Simpson Motors. The Puma was damaged in subsequent accidents, but returns this year, with Holland’s Fenny Wesselink again the co-driver, on her 10th trip.
Welsh crew Rupert Lomax and co-driver-cum-preparation wizard Dave ‘Squeek’ Alcock will be back for their fourth visit, having finished 13th overall, winning Group A, last year, thrilling fans at the Vaucluse ‘Ninety’ on the way. When the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI slipped into the ditch on the right of the stage heading north, few believed the car would emerge unscathed but it did, and the collective cheer from the crowd could be heard islandwide.
Last year, Alcock ticked another of his rallying boxes when he finished 15th overall and third in class, co-driving with Rikki Proffitt in a Toyota Corolla in New Zealand’s eight-day Silver Fern Historic Rally, while Lomax is currently lying fifth overall and second in class in the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship in his Ford Escort MkI RS1600.
Nigel Worswick returns for a fifth consecutive visit. He finished 15th overall last year, third in SuperModified 11 in his Escort MkII. He was delighted with his best result so far, particularly as it was the first major rally for co-driver Rebecca Kirsch. He had been hoping to bring his Ford Escort WRC – he is entered in the Manx National and the shipping dates clash – but is still looking forward to this year, with a faster engine now in the Escort.