Damien and Brandon Johnson (Suzuki Samurai) won the fifth and final round of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Chefette MudDogs Safari & Safari Novice Championships last Sunday.
But as the reigning novice champions claimed their first overall victory in the Nassco November Safari, third place was sufficient to clinch third consecutive MudDogs titles for Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’neal as driver and navigator respectively.
The Johnsons have been competing as a team since the Nassco October Safari in 2013. Previously, Damien’s navigators had been Nicholas Pinto and Daniel Christie in 2012, then Corey Williams and Jamal Brathwaite earlier in 2013. Damien and Brandon won the 2014 Chefette Novice title in 2014, top novices in three of five events, with a best overall result of second in the Chefette April Safari.
Sponsored for the eighth consecutive year by the island’s Toyota dealer, Sunday’s Safari was contested in the central and northern parishes, with recent weather patterns helping to create a challenging event.
MudDogs chairman Ricky Holder said the rain really made it extra muddy which was a nice change, as most of the Safaris for 2015 had been quite dry.
“The route setters Biddy Barber, Nicholas Lorde and Brett Barber did a fantastic job and it turned out to be a well enjoyed rally to end off the year. While I am noting the support we receive, I would like to thank Nassco for their continued sponsorship, also our marshals and family of competitors –– when George and Garry Mendes made a wrong turn in one of the challenges and got stuck, their fellow competitors and marshals were soon on the scene to help them out,” Holder said.
Ben Norris and Kirk Watkins (Ford Ranger) looked set to improve on their best result of the season –– second, in the September Safari –– when they won route one from Four Roads, St John, to Morgan Lewis, St Andrew, by 76 penalty points. Alleyne and O’Neal (Isuzu D-Max) were second, with the Johnsons third, just 29 more points behind.
As route two led the 14 crews from Morgan Lewis to the finish at Country View, St Thomas, the Johnson brothers were the comfortable winners, incurring just 78 penalties. The 2012 MudDogs champions Chris Armstrong and Wayne Clarke (Toyota Hilux) were second –– they won last year’s Nassco November Safari –– with Dean Springer and first-time navigator Bridget Garity third in a Ford Ranger.
The Johnsons’ margin of victory at the end of the day was 142 penalty points, with only 41 between Norris/Watkins and Alleyne/O’Neal for second and third. Richard Hinkson and Kevin-Jon Manning (Suzuki Samurai) were the narrow novice winners, just 35 points separating them from first-timers Christopher Haywood and Justin Corbin, who made an impressive debut in a ZNA Rich.