Several of the world’s top rally drivers and their cars will be rolling into the island within weeks.
From Australasia to North America, rally teams have been making final preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2016, as shipping dates draw near.
New Zealand rallying legend Mike Marshall bade farewell to his Peugeot 106 S16 on Wednesday as it left the Port of Auckland on the first leg of its 20,000-mile round trip to the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, New York-based Irish businessmen Martin Donnelly and Barry McKenna’s rally cars will have covered around 4,500 miles by the time they join them in Barbados. They will the travel a further 2,500 miles north to Maine, to compete in the New England Forest Rally, making for a 14,000-mile round trip by the time they return to Ireland.
The Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event and the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol Rally Barbados 2016 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 3 to 5. The previous weekend, May 28 and 29, fans will have their first chance to see overseas crews up close at scrutineering at Simpson Motors, then in action at FLOW King of the Hill.
Marshall’s car is aboard the container ship Spirit of Melbourne, heading through the Panama Canal to Cartagena in Colombia. Unlike last year, when their container was trans-shipped once for the final leg of the journey to the Bridgetown Port in Barbados, there is a second stop and further change of vessel in the Dominican Republic.
Marshall and co-driver Marc Keen are looking forward to this year, having learned some lessons in Sol Rally Barbados 2015, when Marshall’s son Nick also competed in the family’s Peugeot 206. Nick finished third in Modified 7 and his father sixth in Modified 6.
Marshall senior told rallybarbados.net: “We made no attempt to lighten our cars, all we did was fit suspension that was 50 per cent stiffer. Both decisions were wrong. The technical roads in Barbados require softer suspension to cope with the patches in the road surface, plus good brakes and good acceleration from lighter weight. Hopefully, we have made better choices this year.”
The Window Factory Peugeot is now 100kg lighter after a bare-shell rebuild and has new brakes, wiring, a Sadev paddle-shift gearbox and fresh paint job.
Marshall added: “Last year, Willie Hinds told me ‘On your first event in Barbados, no-one will remember if you were slow, but everyone will remember if you crash.’ So I took his advice.”
Marshall was New Zealand’s top driver in the early 1970s, regularly winning more stages than anyone else, even against international competition. A member of the Woolmark Ford Team in Rally New Zealand in 1973, finishing second to MkI Escort team-mate Hannu Mikkola, he went on to win the event two years later in what was the first international success for the MkII Escort.
Donnelly is making his third trip to Sol Rally Barbados, having finished the event on both previous visits in his former Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 22nd overall and second in Group N in 2012 the better result. Having started his competition career in the mid-1990s driving a Ford Mustang, he has been a regular competitor on both sides of the Atlantic and twice won the Atlantic Rally Cup in the USA, in 2008 and 2009. A frequent podium finisher, he has won the Black River Stages in up-state New York three years
in a row.
Since acquiring the Eire Concrete Inc Toyota Corolla WRC shortly after his last visit to Barbados in 2013, Donnelly has claimed more than 10 class wins or podium finishes in Irish events, with a best overall result of third in the 2014 Cork 20 National, with Brian Doherty, who has rallied on both sides of the Atlantic and returns to Barbados this year.
With co-driver Declan Tynan, McKenna will campaign his ECD NY Inc-backed Ford Escort MkII in SuperModified 2. In the last three seasons, he has clocked up three class wins and a further five class podiums, with a best of seventh overall on last July’s Mach 1 Stages, a round of the Scottish Tarmac Championship.