Three ex-works Subarus campaigned in period by 2003 FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg are confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2017.
The Norwegian, who won two more FIA titles in 2014 and 2015 when he switched to the World Rallycross Championship, finished second twice and claimed a further four top six finishes in these cars in the final three years before Subaru withdrew from the WRC at the end of 2008.
As the BRC celebrates its 60th anniversary, Sol Rally Barbados 2017 will run from June 2 to 4 with Flow King of the Hill, on which the seeding for the main event is based, the previous Sunday (May 28). Since entries opened on October 1 on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, more than 50 have been posted, almost three-quarters of the total from overseas.
Barbados’ rallying legend Roger Skeete has campaigned his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B since 2009 with Louis Venezia as co-driver, clocking up three of his record 13 victories in the 27-year history of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event in that time. He has also won King of the Hill in the Impreza three times, with three further podium finishes.
Solberg finished second in both Mexico and Argentina in this car in 2006, then seventh in Japan later in the season, with sixth and fourth in Monte Carlo and Norway respectively following in 2007.
Britain’s Rob Swann acquired a WRC S12B in 2016, in which he won the Sunoco Shakedown Stages before finishing eighth in Sol Rally Barbados 2016, backed by Elegant Hotels, Blue Sky Luxury and Cygnet Plant. For his 10th consecutive appearance on the event this year, he is reunited with Welsh co-driver Darren Garrod. His car was campaigned when new by Subaru World Rally Team drivers Solberg and Xavier Pons. He logged up two top 10 WRC finishes in 2007, Catalunya and the Tour de Corse – but was also twice driven to victory on Italian events in 2012 by Polish ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica.
Second place in 2014 is the best of Swann’s three top six finishes since his 2008 Barbados debut. He finished 25 seconds behind Skeete and roughly the same margin ahead of Trinidad’s John Powell (Ford Focus WRC08). The following year, he was sixth, having previously finished fifth, in a rented Impreza S12B in 2011, his first appearance in Barbados in a World Rally Car. In 2010, he won Group N and finished ninth overall in an Impreza N14, also winning Group N in Rally Jamaica, the first – and so far only – driver to do the double in the same year.
Completing the trio is British newcomer, lawyer Graham Coffey from Rochdale in the north-west of England, who acquired his S12B shortly after Skeete in 2009. Encouraged by Sol Rally Barbados regular Kevin Procter, against whom he has competed regularly in recent years, Coffey’s first trip to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international will combine motor sport and leisure, as he will be travelling in a group of around 20, all aiming to help his partner Lyndsay celebrate a landmark birthday in style.
Solberg was fourth in Sweden and fifth on the Monte Carlo Rally in 2008 in Coffey’s car, going on to finish 11th in Mexico, before retiring in Argentina with electrical problems on his final outing in that car before the hatchback WRC S14 was introduced mid-season.
Coffey’s co-driver will be Welshman Patrick Walsh, who two weeks ago (January 21) partnered stunt driver Paul Swift to his first-ever stage rally victory in his Ford Escort MkII. On a sunny but bitterly cold day, they won the MGJ Engineering Brands Hatch Winter Stages by just eight seconds. Despite an early scare when another competing car demolished a merge barrier alongside them, five wins in eight stages kept them ahead in a tight battle with the similar car of Martin Hodgson and Tony Jones, while Nigel Mummery and Fiona Scarrett finished third in a Ford Focus WRC05.
Coffey and Walsh have competed together before, most recently last September finishing third in the Rally National Le Bethunois, a round of the France Cup. Coffey, who first rallied a Group N Ford Escort Cosworth in 1996, has competed across Europe for many years, winning the German National Championship in 2013.