The countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2018 officially gets underway at midnight tomorrow when online entries open on the event website, www.rallybarbados.net. While many a competitor’s fingers will be ready to click ‘send’ seconds after, that was just too long a wait for one British company director who was looking for an unbeatable 60th birthday present for her husband.
Anna Faulkner contacted the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) in early May – almost a month before Sol Rally Barbados 2017 had even started – wanting to register an entry for next year for husband John, so she could surprise him on his birthday in the middle of June. Rally office manager Jeanne Crawford recalls: “We have never had someone so determined to enter the event so early, it just seemed right to do our best to help make it happen; especially for such a good reason.”
Details were exchanged, an entry form created, so Anna was good to go for the June 16 surprise. Husband John, who competed for 30 years or so from age 21 until 2008, takes up the story: “Anna handed me a folder and a framed picture of the old Escort, with everything set up to go to Sol Rally Barbados in 2018. We’d had an enjoyable visit to Barbados in 2015, and Anna knew I was threatening to get the Escort out . . . but I just didn’t know what to say! There are presents and presents, but this was something else!”
Faulkner first rallied at age 21, finishing 38 events in a V8-engined Ford Escort MkI, which he built during his apprenticeship at Land Rover, where he worked for more than 30 years. He replaced it with a 2-litre BDG MkII in 1992, in which he only competed sporadically due to work commitments until taking a break in 2008, by which time he was also supporting son Scott, who has been rallying for 12 years.
With co-driver Dom Adams, Faulkner Jnr (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) is currently third in Group N in the MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship with one round to go.
Away from the driving seat, John’s engineering and logistics skills came in to play on one of the world’s toughest events, the Paris-Dakar, which his employers Land Rover had won in 1979 and 1981. Faulkner explained: “I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime challenge to revive the official Land Rover Paris-Dakar entry in 1987 as Motorsport Manager. I spent six months organising the team and building three vehicles, followed by 21 days in the African desert. With 1985 winner Patrick Zaniroli, we finished second, only losing out to Ari Vatanen, who claimed the first of a string of Peugeot victories. After six years without a result, it was a fantastic effort from the team.”
With an entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2018 now on the horizon thanks to his birthday gift, Faulkner needed to revive his Escort and start planning a programme of events in preparation, but that didn’t go quite to plan. “I went to visit the old MkII in the garage. She was very sound and had a fresh engine, but there would be many hours of work to ensure she was to a standard to be proud of, so I made the difficult decision that unfortunately she would have to go.”
The new Millennium Manufacturing Group Escort is a full historic-spec 2-litre BDG, which Faulkner described as “a stunning car”, which he debuted on the Pendragon Stages in August. Anna reported: “John did very well. He finished 25th overall, fourth in class. Saying it was his first rally for more than nine years, he was keeping up with the top 20 during the afternoon, once he had got back into it and used to the new car.” Co-driver on the Pendragon was Peter Foy, who will also sit in for Sol Rally Barbados 2018. He has been co-driver to Faulkner’s nephew Mike (Evo IX) in the MSA Scottish Championship for many years, consistently top four finishers at year-end and runners-up four times, most recently in 2015. They have also twice won the Wales Rally GB National event.