Britain’s Rob Swann will start his final preparations forSol Rally Barbados 2016, seeded number one ahead of Roger Hill, in this weekend’s Sunoco Shakedown stages
Driving his recently-acquired Subaru Impreza WRC S12B in anger for the first time, theten-stage event presents an ideal chance for a warm-up before Flow King of the Hill and the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event over the next six weeks.
Sporting a locally wrapped new livery in deference to sponsors Elegant Hotels and Blue Sky Luxury, Swann’s car will first be seen at scrutineering, between noon and 5.00p.m. tomorrow at Automotive Art Welches. Campaigned when new by Subaru World Rally Team drivers Xavi Pons and Petter Solberg, it was twice driven to victory on Italian events in 2012 by Polish ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica.
For Sunday’s event, Swann will have experienced local Sean Gill in the co-driver’s seat, a year since the former Rally Club champion last saw action, when he sat with Jamaica’s Kyle Gregg, who finished second in Group N in the Shakedown Stages on his first-ever tarmac outing in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Three regional entries are also listed on the 29-car running order confirmed at last night’s briefing meeting at the Barbados Clay Target Shooting Association (BCTSA) Club House, Searles. With ten stages offering 37.5 kilometres of competitive mileage –– a little under one-third of the projected distance for Sol RB16 –– Sunday’s event will give crews some valuable pointers as to where they stand against the opposition and whether their winter development work has paid off.
Hill is the only other starter in WRC, his Toyota Corolla WRC repaired after rolling at the season-opener in March, while Group N promises a good contest. Last year’s winner Andrew Mallalieu (Impreza N10), the only driver to have scored points this year, faces the Evo IXs of reigning class champion, Trinidad’s David Coelho, and Mark Thompson.
Many eyes will be focused on the two-wheel-drive battle, particularly as Josh Read (Toyota Starlet) has already notched up two outright wins in the season’s early speed events.He faces some more serious opposition this time round, however, from Roger Mayers (WR Starlet), Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) and double BRC Champion Rhett Watson (BMW M3). Add in Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic), Neil Corbin (Starlet) and Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII), and the outcome will create fierce debate stage-side.
Ten special stages are planned at two venues, with the 9.30a.m. start, lunch break and finish (approximately 4.30p.m.) at the Greenland Agricultural Station in St Andrew, with the Prize-giving shortly after. The stage venues are Four Hills to Orange Hill, which will run three times in the morning, alternating with two runs from Collins to Pickerings. In the afternoon, the stages will be reversed, with three runs of Pickerings to Collins and two from Orange Hill to Four Hills.