The final running order for Sol Rally Barbados 2015 from May 29 to 31 published by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) in advance of this evening’s briefing meeting at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa in Rockley, lists competitors from 15 nations among the 90 crews for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International.
As the BRC celebrates the 25th anniversary of its premier event, records have been broken –– overseas entries (44), total of overseas participants (89), first-time overseas participants (40), cars in the four-wheel-drive classes (27) and the number of female competitors (16), while the quality of the entry across the board means all bets are off.
The BRC chairman Mark Hamilton said it seemed that there were many in the rallying fraternity across the world who wanted to help the Barbados Rally Club celebrate the first 25 years of special stage rallying in the island.
“We are overwhelmed by the support shown this year, not only by our long-term repeat visitors, but also by the record number of newcomers. We welcome them and thank them all for their support . . . and it is now up to us, and that special vibe that ‘rally’ in Barbados creates, to ensure that our first-time participants come back year after year as well.
“Sunday’s LIME King of the Hill has truly set us up for an amazing weekend of competition – overall victory was decided by just five-hundredths of a second, and four classes were settled by less than a second, too. This is unheard of . . . I believe that next weekend will be something very special,” he said.
With seeding based on the results of last Sunday’s LIME King of the Hill, 13-time winner Roger Skeete and Louis Venezia (Subaru Impreza WRC S12) will start at number one. Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton –– he won the International All-Stage Rally in 1998 –– and Michael Fennell Jr are at two, in the Ford Focus WRC06, with 2012 and 2013 winner Paul Bird and Aled Davies at three in the Focus WRC08.
Also in contention are former World Rally Championship contender, Finland’s Toni Gardemeister, who will campaign the Suzuki SX4 WRC with countryman Timo Alanne, and double European Rally Champion, France’s Simon Jean-Joseph, who will be partnered in Trinidad ace John Powell’s Focus WRC08 by Jack Boyere, who shared both his ERC titles in 2003 and 2007.
Josh Read and Mark Jordan are top two-wheel-drive seeds for the first time, starting at eight in the Toyota Starlet, with Neil Armstrong and Barry Ward (Starlet) at 11, Roger Mayers and Sean Corbin (WR Starlet) at 12, and the highest-placed two-wheel-drive overseas newcomers Simon Mauger and Melanie Holmes (Ford Escort MkII) at 14.
In addition to the battle for overall and two-wheel-drive supremacy, there will be 15 separate classes contested, in all but two of which island competitors will enjoy the challenge of pitting their skills against regional or international entries.
Sol Rally Barbados 2015 will start and finish on the unique Race Of Champions Parallel Track at Bushy Park. On Friday night, the facility will play host to the first two of 22 special stages, 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 Raceway will be the focal point of the Saturday of Sol Rally Barbados 2015, with four runs southbound through the facility, followed by a further two northbound runs on Sunday morning. The introduction of the Race Of Champions track and new sections of Vaucluse Raceway combined with the reconfiguration of other familiar stages present a refreshed challenge for competitors, while seeding arrangements change. in addition to the traditional Sunday morning re-seed based on overnight classification, the same will happen on Saturday morning.