French marque Citroen, winner of eight World Rally Championship titles since 2003, has rarely been represented in the 27-year history of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event. But that is about to change, with today’s confirmation of a quartet of Citroens for Sol Rally Barbados 2017, bringing to 30 the total 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 2-4, 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 in just three weeks’ time, on Friday, April 28. About 90 have been posted so far, around two-thirds from overseas.
There will be two Citroens each in Modified 2 and M1. A pair of DS 3 R3 MAX M2 entries have been received from Barbados regular Paul Horton, representing the Turks & Caicos Islands, and Welsh first-timer Andrew Hockridge; in M1, the C2 R2 MAX entries posted come from Martinique’s Pascal Calvel, back for a second year, and newcomer Pierre Beswick, Jamaican-born, but also representing Turks & Caicos.
Before Sol Rally Barbados 2017, Horton and local co-driver Dwayne Forde will debut the Turks Head Brewery/Java Island/Sky Motorsports/H Racing DS 3 in the Automotive Art Shakedown Stages (April 23). Previously owned by Ireland’s Daniel McKenna, who competed in WRC 3 in Monte Carlo, Finland and Portugal in 2015, the car reached Barbados two weeks ago and is now undergoing final preparation.
Horton was the first driver to represent Turks & Caicos in Sol Rally Barbados, back in 2010, in a Honda Civic, then a Ford Escort Mk1. It took him until 2013, his second year in the Escort, to record an overall finish, going on to claim his best result – 14th overall and second in Modified 7 – the following year.
Although this is 2015 MSA Tarmac FWD champion Hockridge’s first Sol Rally Barbados entry, he is familiar with the event through friends including Rob Swann and Welsh co-drivers Aled Edwards and Darron Garrod. Edwards, who will be his co-driver in the GRH Food Company Ltd-backed DS 3, finished sixth and eighth overall respectively over the past two years with Swann and had previously claimed class wins in a previous DS 3 with Hockridge on the Isle of Man in 2015 and in Ireland’s West Cork Rally in 2016.
Hockridge has had a tough build-up to Sol Rally Barbados 2017, after breaking his shoulder last June. “That put me out of action until recently and I am having weekly physio to prepare for Barbados. We first used the new DS 3 R3 MAX on the West Cork in February to learn the car, but gearbox problems and a broken steering rack (with my weak shoulder), put us out. I’m very excited for the rally but nervous about the new car as well; it’s a beast.”
In M1, Calvel returns with the Citroen C2 R2 MAX in which he finished 26th overall and third in class last year, with co-driver Miguel Azerot. Chasing a class win this year, he will have former champion co-driver Francoise Devin sitting alongside. Martinique Hill climb champion in 2015, Calvel has been a regular visitor to Barbados in recent months, racing in the Suzuki Challenge Series Swift Cup at Bushy Park. Although his debut last Easter was his first experience of racing a right-hand-drive car, he finished ninth and highest-placed regional competitor in the Summer Series.
A regular front-runner in his C2 in competitions in both Martinique and Guadeloupe, Calvel won the 2015 hill climb series in a Suzuki-powered Jema G30GT, and expanded his horizons with an outing in the Fun Cup Dubai for Volkswagen Beetles in March last year, before switching to the Suzuki Challenge Series.
Beswick will be making his debut as a rally driver in his recently acquired C2 R2 MAX, which is due to arrive in Barbados in the next few days. If all goes to plan, he will contest the Automotive Art Shakedown Stages alongside Horton. He is not without competition experience, however, having co-driven for Stan Hartling – another Barbados regular – three times on the Targa Newfoundland with two top 10 finishes to their credit. Beswick’s co-driver will be Barbadian Leslie Evanson, who finished 36th overall and Historic class-winner with British visitor Steve Wood in a Mini Cooper in Sol Rally Barbados 2008.