Barbadian fan favourite, British BMW driver Martin ‘Mad-dale’ Stockdale, will have flown more than 140,000 miles in return trips across the Atlantic when he lands at London Gatwick in early June after competing in Sol Rally Barbados 2017 . . . and that’s more than 12 days in the air. This is his 17th straight appearance in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, which he, wife Glenis and family have not missed since 2001.
Confirmation Friday of Stockdale’s entry, along with three more repeat visitors, including Holland’s Frans Verbaas – he returns for the first time since 2013 with his spectacular orange Group B Mini – brings to 26 the number of overseas crews now committed to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International.
As the BRC marks its 60th anniversary, Sol Rally Barbados 2017 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 2 to 4, and Flow King of the Hill, on which the seeding for the main event is based, the previous Sunday, May 28. Entries opened on October 1 on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, and will close on Friday, April 28. About 90 have been posted so far, nearly two-thirds from overseas.
Stockdale’s choice of a BMW as his rally car – in many variations since his 2001 debut – has endeared him to local fans and helped build relationships with fellow-competitors, including island BMW ace Jonathan Still and others for whom he has built cars. His current BMW 1M Coupe, powered by a 3-litre V6 Jaguar engine, has kept him in the mix in SuperModified 3. Although adding to his previous record of class wins in Modified Open and Group B looks unlikely, a class podium finish is well within reach in 2017, with co-driver Gary Miller, another returnee to the island.
Busy on a small production line of BMWs for Caribbean customers, Stockdale has had no chance to shake down his own car, but has done some development work, as he told rallybarbados.net.
“We have done a bit of suspension work and the fuel pressure issue that plagued us on Sunday last year is sorted. We are looking forward to a good clean run and, of course, catching up with old friends for a couple of cocktails.”
Dutch entrepreneur Verbaas has won Group B three times in the Verbaas Preparations and Koni-backed Mini, built in 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic brand’s launch. Formerly Austin Rover dealers, the Verbaas family have a collection of around 20, but this is not your average Mini. It is a front-wheel-drive, powered by a 2-litre Opel Kit Car engine, with Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox and Opel Astra Group A suspension. Having missed three years, Verbaas is keen for another Group B win.
Two other British crews returning after missing out on Sol Rally Barbados 2016 are the Sparrow Hill Cars entries for Chris Shooter and partner Bev LeGood (Ford Escort MkII) and Antony Pownall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX). Shooter and LeGood return for the third time, with two overall finishes to their credit and the 2014 International Historic class win. Once regulars in the British Historic Rally Championship – they won their class in 2008 and the Shekhar Mehta ‘Spirit of Rallying’ Award the following year – they now limit their rallying to a handful of events such as the Tour of Flanders, Rally Isle of Man and the national event on Wales Rally GB in 2013, with class wins and top 10 finishes to their credit.
Shooter’s support crew in 2014 included former hill-climb and circuit racer Pownall, a regular in the Renault 5 Turbo Championship in the 1980s, who so enjoyed the trip that he bought a rally car to compete in 2015. Pownall also collects veteran cars, including a 1901 De-Dion Bouton, in which he and Shooter have regularly finished the world-famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Having achieved an overall finish in Sol Rally Barbados 2015, sixth in Group N, he is looking forward to his return, with new co-driver Lee Almond.