The Barbados Rally Club has promised “a party to remember” when it celebrates the 25th anniversary of its premier event with two spectacular weekends of motor sport at the end of this month.
LIME King of the Hill on May 24 and Sol Rally Barbados from May 29 to 31 will not only offer competitors a challenge worthy of such a milestone, but will also give the island’s thousands of rally fans an unforgettable spectator experience.
The provisional entry list of 95 crews was confirmed today during a press conference at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa at Rockley, Christ Church. The club’s anniversary event has broken a number of records: overseas entries (44); participating nationalities (17); total of overseas participants (88); first-time overseas participants (40); and female competitors (15).
This year’s Sol Rally Barbados will start and finish on the unique Race Of Champions parallel track at Bushy Park, St Philip. On Friday night, the facility will play host to the first two of 22 special stages, competitors tackling the 1.8-kilometre course at one-minute intervals, while Sunday’s SuperSpecial will give drivers the chance to let their hair down head-to-head, safe in the knowledge that the times are not included in the results.
On the other side of the island, the Vaucluse, St Thomas raceway will be the focal point of LIME King of the Hill and the Saturday of Sol Rally Barbados, as LIME partners with two other long-term sponsors of the Barbados Rally Club to present the LIME/Banks/Automotive Art Party Stage. Following the creation of new link roads within Vaucluse, roughly one mile has been added to the traditional Hangman’s Hill stage and fans will be up close to the action.
The introduction of the Race Of Champions track and new sections of the Vaucluse raceway will combine with the reconfiguration of other familiar stages to present a refreshed challenge for competitors, while seeding arrangements change, too. In addition to the traditional Sunday morning re-seed based on overnight classification, the same will happen on Saturday morning.
The best-ever overseas entry of 44 crews includes former World Rally Championship contender, Finland’s Toni Gardemeister, who will campaign the Suzuki SX4 WRC with countryman Timo Alanne. Gardemeister, who has six WRC podium finishes and 16 stage wins to his credit, was fourth in the Championship in 2005 in a works Ford Focus WRC04.
The SX4 is one of a record 26 cars entered in the four-wheel-drive classes, headed by island legend and 13-time winner Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12). He will also face strong opposition from the United Kingdom, including Paul Bird (Focus WRC08), who won in 2012 & 2013, and last year’s runner-up Rob Swann (Impreza S11), while the region’s challenge is spearheaded by Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Focus WRC06) and John Powell from Trinidad & Tobago (Focus WRC08).
And the battle for two-wheel-drive honours promises to be just as captivating, with the Toyota Starlets of Roger Mayers, Josh Read and the returning Neil Armstrong facing last year’s winner Rhett Watson (BMW M3), the Peugeot 306 Maxis of Stuart Maloney and Dave Skeete, plus Simon Mauger from the United Kingdom in his spectacular Ford Escort MkII.
Rally chairman Mark Hamilton praised all those involved in the event and its annual success.
“The selfless passion and interest through the years of the club’s committees, volunteers and competitors, as well as corporate, Government and tourism-based entities have built what is now a world-recognised motor sport event. The 25th anniversary has been planned with both competitor and spectator in mind and we’ll be organising a party to remember, with a rally finish that will bring competitors, rally cars, service crews, supporters and spectators together.”
Title sponsor since 2008, Sol, was represented at today’s briefing by Barbados country manager Ezra Prescod.
“We are truly proud to be the title sponsor of Sol Rally Barbados for the eighth year. As one of the leading fuel providers in the Caribbean basin, motor sport connects with the core of our business. Through this international rally, the club is consistently delivering a world-class experience to motor sport fans on the island and to our visitors from across the globe,” he said.