After a dominant run of four straight WRC class wins, Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton is the first competitor from the four-wheel-drive classes to lead the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) champion driver title chase at the half-way stage since 2011. With four of seven rounds run, he is three points ahead of SuperModified 1 class leader Neil Corbin, while four more drivers are within 10 points of his total of 75.
In what is already proving to be a very competitive season, more than 50 drivers have scored points, with six class leaders holding on to their advantage by 10 points or less. While Panton has not put a foot wrong so far this year in his Ford Focus WRC06, the same can be said of Corbin (Toyota Starlet), but SM1 was not fully-subscribed for the opening round – three starters are needed for full points to be scored – hence his three-point deficit.
BRC newcomer Stuart Garcia (BMW 318ti Compact) is third overall, another five points behind Corbin, with one class win and three second-place finishes to his credit. He had been trailing Derek Edwards in Clubman 2 until a clutch failure on his similar BMW caused Edwards to retire from day two of Sol Rally Barbados 2017, so Garcia now has an eight-point lead.
Fourth overall is Wayne Archer (BMW 325), one point behind Garcia but 10 ahead of John Corbin (Toyota Corolla) in Historic 2. Tied for fifth place overall on 65 points, Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII) and Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta) are the respective leaders of SuperModified 3 and SM2. Jones is just three points ahead of Justin Campbell (BMW M3), with whom he enjoyed a titanic battle throughout Sol Rally Barbados 2017, while Mayers has a nine-point advantage over Stuart McChlery (Escort MkI), after a number of fancied SM2 runners retired from Sol RB17.
Three more drivers are tied for seventh on 64 points – Roger Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), who is second in WRC to Panton, Edward Corbin (Daihatsu Charmant) and Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS), who are the leaders of Modified 1 and C1 respectively, while a further three are tied for 10th place on 62. Adding Group N leader Mark Thompson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), Campbell and Paul Horton from the Turks & Caicos Islands, who leads M2 in his Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX, into the mix means there are no fewer than 10 drivers covered by just five points from third to equal 10th overall.
With the ‘dropped score’ rule abandoned for this year along with the reduction in qualifying rounds, the rest of the BRC driver’s and class championships look set for a tight contest. There are almost three months before the double-header SuperSprint in October, so those competitors for whom the year has not started so well can regroup.
Panton also leads the BRC four-wheel-drive championship by 11 points from Skeete, with Roger Hill (Toyota Corolla WRC) a further eight behind. Mayers, who leads the two-wheel-drive championship, has the same margin of 11 points over Jones and Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi), who are tied for second place, with Campbell fourth, two more points adrift.