Thirteen-time winner Roger Skeete starts his preparations for the 25th anniversary of the island’s premier event this Sunday in the Barbados Rally Club’s Shakedown Stages.
Driving his Subaru Impreza WRC S12, he will face a strong regional challenge from Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and John “Penti” Powell of Trinidad and Tobago in their Ford Focus WRCs, an ideal warm-up for LIME King of the Hill and Sol Rally Barbados next month.
Four other regional entries are included in the 34-car running order confirmed at last night’s briefing meeting at the Barbados Clay Target Shooting Association Club House, Searles, Christ Church. With ten stages offering 37.5 kilometres of competitive mileage –– around one-third of the projected distance for Sol RB15 –– Sunday’s event will give crews some valuable pointers as to where they stand against the opposition and whether their winter development work has paid off.
While Avinash Chatrani is alone in Group A on the debut of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI after a total rebuild by Dom Buckley Motorsport in the United Kingdom, Group N promises a good contest. Andrew Mallalieu (Impreza N10), the only driver to have scored points in the class so far, faces the Evo IXs of Trinidad’s David Coelho, having his first outing in the ex-Geoff Noel car, and Rally Jamaica 2014 winner Kyle Gregg.
An exceptional two-wheel-drive entry includes all but one of the local cars expected to feature at the sharp end of the battle in Sol Rally Barbados 2015. In Toyota Starlets are the returning Neil Armstrong, top two-wheel drive in Sol Rally Barbados in 2011 and 2012 and BRC two-wheel drive champion in 2011, Roger Mayers, Josh Read (two-wheel drive champion 2013) –– both cars fresh from winter rebuilds –– and Cliff Roett, who showed well in the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s Spring Blaze 15.
They face the BMW M3 of last year’s BRC champion driver, also two-wheel drive champ and highest-placed two-wheel drive in Sol Rally Barbados 2014, Rhett Watson –– already this year’s leader of the BRC two-wheel drive points –– and the Peugeot 306 Maxis of Stuart Maloney and Dane Skeete.
Add the likes of Justin Campbell (M3), Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic), Neil Corbin (Starlet) and Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII), and the outcome will create fierce debate stage-side.
Ten special stages are planned at two venues, with the 9.30 a.m. start, lunch break and finish (approximately 4 p.m.) at the Greenland Agricultural Station in St Andrew. Cars which have not yet undergone annual tech will attend scrutineering tomorrow between 2.30 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Automotive Art, Welches. Those that have already been checked will attend pre-event scrutineering between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
The stage venues are Four Hills to Orange Hill, which will run three times in the morning, alternating with two runs from Lamberts to Pickerings. In the afternoon, with the first car scheduled to leave Greenland at 1.15 p.m., the stages will be reversed, with three runs of Pickerings to Lamberts and two from Orange Hill to Four Hills.