Former New Zealand junior rally champion Craig Marshall will make his Sol Rally Barbados debut this year, following in the wheel-tracks of his father, Kiwi rallying legend Mike Marshall, and brother Nick, who have each made the 28,000-kilometre round trip over the past couple of years. He will be joined by cousin David Proud in a two-car entry with a 13-strong family group travelling to support them . . . and to celebrate ‘Proudy’s birthday, which falls during the trip.
In the year that the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) marks its 60th anniversary, the club’s premier event will run from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4, with the all-new Simpson Motors Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend. Entries closed last Thursday (April 27), two days after the European entries set sail from Portsmouth on the English south coast; they are scheduled to reach the Bridgetown Port this weekend.
With co-driver Andrew Smith, Craig is entered in the Window Factory/Dataspares Peugeot 106 Maxi, driven in Barbados for the past two years by his father. After finishing 50th overall and sixth in Modified 6 in 2015, Mike was not an overall finisher last year. Proud, with co-driver Anita Campbell, will campaign the Window Factory 206 GTi 180, which Nick drove to 36th overall and third in Modified 7 in 2015. The two Marshall Motorsport cars are currently on the high seas, having left Auckland two weeks ago, heading for the Bridgetown Port via the Panama Canal.
Craig started competing in club events in his Mazda 323 4×4 daily driver in grass track events in local vineyards, before moving on to competitive rallying, including a Peugeot 306 S16, that the family had prepared from a basic kit that imported from Peugeot Sport in the UK. His talent was spotted by Morrie Chandler, for many years the president of MotorSport New Zealand and chairman of Rally of New Zealand, of whom Marshall said: “He has always been a massive supporter of young up and coming drivers in NZ; that resulted in some remarkable opportunities with Ralliart NZ – while on the Ralliart programme, we won the NZ Junior Championship in 1996.”
“I had to settle into making a life and some money. I spent time in Australia working in a family engineering and fabrication business, before returning to New Zealand to compete in the 2008 Silver Fern Rally, a seven-day event spanning the entire South Island. After what can only be described as a week-long rally sprint, we finished second. Epic event.”
Craig’s Sol Rally Barbados 2017 co-driver Smith was with him then and the car is the same 206, which Proud will be driving in Barbados.
Marshall concluded: “Seven years later, let’s see if I still have some skill. I think it will take me a while to get back up to speed and in tune with note writing but I am looking forward to the adventure. I did a few laps of our Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park here in Taupo NZ, just for a shakedown of the 106, having made a few small modifications and needing to test the car, as I have never driven it before. It isn’t very powerful, but the handling is sensational and I was very confident in it.”
Although Proud first became keen on rallying when watching his uncle Mike in Rally New Zealand in the 1970s – he finished second to Hannu Mikkola in 1973, then won the event in 1975 – he only started competing himself last year, and then in circuit racing and hill climbs, rather than stage rallying. Driving a BMW M3, he has won the 2016/17 Continental Rennsport Championship, with one round in hand, claiming both overall and BMW class titles. The series brings together a range of European marques, such as Audi, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen VW, in a six-round calendar between December and April, competing at iconic NZ venues including Hampton Fields and Pukekohe. He is also leading the 2017 Dual Car Sprint Championship, with an unassailable lead in his class and the potential to win the overall title as well, with two rounds to go.
Co-driver Anita Campbell has been competing since 2004, tackling the mainland series, a gravel championship in the South Island between 2006 & 2009 with husband Darryl, finishing second and third in class in 2007 & 2009. Since then, she has been co-driver for numerous one-off rallies and sprints, including the Christchurch Port Hills Tarmac Rally in 2016, in which she and Darryl finished third in class in their Toyota Altezza.
Proud’s decision to travel to the Caribbean was a simple one. “Uncle Mike never stops talking about how amazing the event is, so we just had to see for ourselves. I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday somewhere new as well. The whole Marshall entourage already feel like family in Barbados – one of the last outings for the car I’m driving was Rally Coromandel 2016, when Tammy Lashley from Barbados came over to co-drive for Nick Marshall.”