The final countdown to this year’s Sol Rally Barbados slated for May 29 to 31 is finally underway. With three weeks to go before the Simpson Motors scrutineering on May 23 and LIME King of the Hill the following day, activity is stepping up across all aspects of the event’s organisation.
On-line entries closed on Friday, and final checks are being made before the provisional entry list is published on Wednesday. The route will also be confirmed on that day while a number of other announcements will be made surrounding the Barbados Rally Club’s milestone event.
The Bridgetown Port was a hive of activity over the weekend, with a group of volunteers assisting in the safe unloading of a record number of overseas entries. The Geest Line freighter Klipper Stream, which set sail from Portsmouth in the United Kingdom on April 22, docked Saturday with its cargo of more than 30 rally cars.
The two Peugeots of Kiwi drivers Mike Marshall and son Nick arrived in a container earlier this week after the 12,000-kilometre voyage from New Zealand, while an inter-island freighter was scheduled to have delivered a new regional entry, the Conseil General de la Guadeloupe-supported Ford Escort Cosworth of Pierre Negre and Gilles Gaussan.
Along with confirmation of Turks & Caicos-based Canadian Stan Hartling’s Bambarra Rum BMW M3, Negre’s arrival brings to eight the number of regional entries, the highest for five years. Hartling, who has been competing in the BRC’s Championship events this year, is co-driven by Heath Hazell, former co-driver to local BMW ace Jonathan Still.
Negre has been rallying for 20 years, initially in an Alfa Romeo GTV6, before switching to a Ford Sierra and then the Escort Cosworth. Guadeloupe Champion in 1994 and 1996. He has won the island’s Rallye des Grand Fonds more than 10 times, most recently with a hat-trick from 2011 to 2013, and has also competed on the French mainland.
The last two UK entries to be confirmed are the Ford Escort Mk IIs of Peter Rayner and Steve Firth, from Braintree and Chelmsford in Essex respectively, and both island newcomers. Rayner heard about Sol Rally Barbados from friends Dick Mauger and Rob Swann, whose Escort and Subaru Impreza WRC S11 were also on the Klipper Stream.
An Escort campaigner for more than 25 years, Rayner’s car is prepared by Perry Road Autos and has support from his long-time sponsor, Tamdown Group; his co-driver will be Richard Bonner. Firth, who will have Rayner’s son Aaron as his co-driver, said: “I haven’t actually rallied for six years, and it was always for fun. I’m looking forward to this, though I generally prefer the loose or forests to tarmac.”