Jamaica’s Jeff Panton slid to victory – twice – in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) double-header Winter Sprint yesterday to maintain his 100 per cent record in the 2017 BRC Driver’s and Class Championships, with one round to go.
As drivers dealt with slippery stage conditions, a monumental battle for two-wheel-drive honours was the highlight of a slick event, which drew praise from competitors and officials alike.
Clerk of the course Neil Barnard said: “The event started bang on time and finished 90 minutes ahead of schedule, with eight runs for approaching 30 cars, including the switch of direction, all done and dusted in four hours. Thanks for an amazing job on the day go to Roger Sargeant and his team of marshals, Yousuf Bulbulia and the Roving Response Team who looked after on-event communications and equipment and John Croney with the timing, along with those club officials who work ahead of time in event planning.”
Driving the Ford Focus WRC06, Panton set out his stall early, almost three seconds quicker than the rest of the field on the opening run from Josey Hill to Lamberts (Collins). He was only headed once all day – on the first run in the opposite direction – despite conditions not being ideal. Having clearly enjoyed himself, the Jamaican said: “It was a great event. I had quite a bit of fun as the surface was extremely slippery, so I had to drive the car as you would on gravel. It was plenty sideways all day.”
With only Roger Hill (Toyota Corolla WRC) to keep him company in the WRC class – he finished fourth and fifth overall – Panton scored reduced points, but remains in the lead of the champion driver title chase, also the four-wheel-drive championship. An enhanced points system will be applied to the final round in November, however, so the championship remains wide open.
It was immediately clear that the two-wheel-drive battle would be close, with Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta) fastest on the first run, nine-tenths ahead of his brother and M & M team-mate Roger (WR Starlet), with Rhett Watson (BMW M3) another quarter-second adrift. As all three improved, the order remained the same after the second run, Roger taking the upper hand on the third run, his time of 1m 17.25s only two-tenths slower than Panton’s best up to that point.
While Panton improved to 1:15.11, that remained Roger’s best, giving him victory in SuperModified 2, while Watson’s fourth run (1:17.63) was good enough for the SM3 win and also to split the Mayers boys, as Barry improved to 1:18.19.
In the opposite direction, Roger was quickest out of the box, 1:20.92 beating Barry by just one-hundredth, while Watson (1:22.85) had time to find; all three, plus Hill, headed Panton on that first run. Roger edged ahead over the next two runs, 1:18.21 giving him four-tenths on Watson, while Barry improved further on the final run (1:19.12), less than a second covering the battling trio.
Roger Mayers said later: “After rebuilding the entire shifting system after the disappointment of Sol Rally Barbados, it was great to have it run trouble-free all day and get a good result.” Brother Barry was equally upbeat: “Today’s event was so well run by the club. This is the first real time I got to run all day at Roger with the new car and, despite being happy how it went, I know we’ve got the work cut out for us to get closer to him.”
Watson, another who suffered disappointment at Sol Rally Barbados 20117, said: “Today’s event went as planned, as this year is now all about development with the new power plant. I took it steady on the first two runs, then it was maximum attack to hunt down Roger. In the end, I’m pleased with the result and the car is on pace.”
Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII) finished sixth overall and second in SM3 in both runs, with Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic) also in the top 10 twice on his way to the Modified 2 class win.
Avinash Chatrani (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI) was on his own in Group A, as was Edward Corbin (Daihatsu Charmant) in Modified 1, while the other class-winners were: Group N, Mark Thompson (Evo IX); SM1, Jeremy Gonsalves (Opel Corsa); Historic, Wayne Archer (BMW 325); Clubman 2, Stuart Garcia (BMW 318ti Compact) – all these won in both directions, while the C1 victories were shared by Jermin Pope (Honda Civic) and Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS).
Results (Top 10):
BRC driver’s and class championships, round 5
1st Jeffrey Panton –
JAM (Ford Focus WRC06), 1m 15.11s
2nd Roger Mayers
(WR Starlet), 1m 17.25s
3rd Rhett Watson
(BMW M3), 1m 17.63s
4th Roger Hill
(Toyota Corolla WRC), 1m 17.92s
5th Barry Mayers
(Ford Fiesta), 1m 18.19s
6th Andrew Jones
(Ford Escort MkII), 1m 19.37s
7th Avinash Chatrani
(Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), 1m 20.03s
8th Daryl Clarke
(Honda Civic), 1m 20.65s
9th Mark Thompson
(Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 1m 20.71s
10th Andrew Mallalieu
(Subaru Impreza N10), 1m 21.89s