The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is not forgetting its past as it prepares to mark the end of its sixth decade. The Sol 60th Anniversary June Safari later this month (June 24 and 25) will carry the club back to its roots, following a circuitous route between Applewhaites and Vaucluse, both in the parish of St Thomas and the same start and finish points used for the inaugural event on Sunday, June 16, 1957.
‘The June’, as it is generally known, is the longest-established motor sport event in the region with a continuous history. Weeks after it was first run, the organising committee called together the participants – there had been a 60-strong entry – and agreed to form the BRC, which is now the oldest organisation in the island devoted to a sport not played with a ball and the oldest motor sport club in the region still bearing its original name.
Over the past six decades, the BRC’s unique place in island motor sport as organiser of both circuit racing and stage rallying events is well documented. Having first encouraged overseas visitors to participate more than 50 years ago, the club’s blue riband event, Sol Rally Barbados, is now a key pillar of the island’s sports tourism product, hosting more than 400 competitors from around 30 countries since the turn of the century.
BRC chairman Mark Hamilton said: “Sixty years is quite the milestone and we, the membership as a whole, are pleased to be the current custodians of a club with such a distinguished history. Hard work, perseverance through good times and bad, a healthy dose of social activity, some tough competition and an established administrative structure have all served the club well and are a credit to all those who have played their part through the years.
“Motor sport, like the club, has changed direction several times through the years, but we have remained focused on our core values of providing a safe, enjoyable and at times intense environment in which the membership can compete, our officials can officiate and our spectators can take in the action. Sounds simple, really . . . but I can assure you that it has taken a lot of work from many people over these past six decades.
“Having said that, there is no doubt that the club’s longevity has been significantly underpinned by the support of corporate Barbados, the respective Governments of the day, the many volunteers who give selflessly of their time, the competitors who provide the spectacle and, of course, the spectators who create the atmosphere. On behalf of the Club, I say thank you to everyone for their contribution through the past 60 years.”
While it has been superseded as the club’s premier event, ‘The June’ remains a keystone of the calendar as the highlight of the Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship for off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles, and a victory is on many a competitor’s ‘bucket’ list. Of the 71 winners, navigational rally veterans Leslie Alleyne and Wayne Clarke have been battling for the record since Clarke became the first to claim five wins in 2010. Since then he has added one more, but it is Alleyne’s seven – two as navigator, five as driver, achieved between 1996 and 2015 – that placed him at the top of the table.
Route-setters for this month’s anniversary event are Sean Gill, Robin Hinds, Clive Howell and Paul Marshall, the first two both multiple winners of ‘The June’. Along with his driving partner of the day, Andrew Mallalieu, Gill still holds the record for the highest number of wins in the shortest time frame – four within nine years, 1989 to 1997 – while Hinds also won from the navigator’s seat, with Prince Willock in 1994, then with David Stoute when they tied for victory in 2000 with Clarke and Chris Armstrong.
The Sol 60th Anniversary June Safari, the only event in the Chefette Championship to run through the night, will feature four routes. Crew number one is scheduled to leave the start at the Applewhaites Plantation Yard, St Thomas, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, the first route concluding with the dinner halt at Sol Speightstown, St Peter at around 7 p.m. Suitably refreshed, the crews will head in to the night, route two carrying them south to finish at Sol Redman’s, St Thomas, before heading east to Sol Six Roads, St Philip, where route three will finish at around daybreak. The final route will lead the crews back to the Vaucluse Raceway, St Thomas, arriving at approximately 10.30a.m.