An unprecedented level of interest from both competitors and spectators has encouraged the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) to move earlier than ever before to announce the dates for the next edition of its premier event, Sol Rally Barbados 2018, which will run from June 1 to 3, with Flow King of the Hill the previous Sunday (May 27), while on-line entries will open on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – on October 1, 2017.
Sol Rally Barbados 2018 chairman Mark Hamilton said: “Way before this year’s event had even started, we were seeing a regular flow of e-mails and social media posts asking about dates for 2018. The competitors were all newcomers, some with very special cars, but there has also been a very encouraging upturn in interest from spectators. As people need to make their plans early, confirming our dates makes sense for all, so we sought approval from the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) to move now.”
Following a successful pilot programme in 2017, tour specialists Rally Travel (www.rallytravel.com) will again market the BRC’s premier event to their loyal customer base of rally fans all over the world. Positive customer feedback – remarks such as “I’m hooked on Barbados” and “if you’re thinking of doing it, it was magic!” from this year’s visitors – prompted the UK company to include Sol Rally Barbados for a second year as the only non-WRC offering in its calendar.
This year’s promotion included a major presence at Europe’s largest motorsports show, Autosport International in England, supported by the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC). Rally Travel Managing Director David Hutchinson said: “Our agreement came very late, so by the time we were talking to potential customers at Autosport in January, many had already made their plans . . . but we did get an incredibly positive reaction. Sol Rally Barbados can, and should, become a ‘must do’ event on every motorsports fan’s calendar and being able to confirm the dates so early means we can start work now. I am really looking forward to us opening up this market.”
From small beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally in 1990, the BRC’s premier event has grown into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motorsports International and a key national event on the island’s sports-tourism calendar. It contributes about BDS$4 million to the economy each year, much of it in foreign exchange, and accounts for more than 4,000 visitor nights at a traditionally quiet time.
The 79 overseas participants in Sol Rally Barbados 2017, of whom 29 were new to the event, came from a record (for one year) 16 countries and there was also a record number of 18 female competitors. Adding the 2017 statistics to those of previous years, the event has now hosted approaching 500 overseas participants from 29 countries. The biggest competitor base remains the United Kingdom and Ireland, but competitors have come from as far afield as Australia, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
Sol Rally Barbados is a tarmac rally, with around 22 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport & Works.