Four-time winner of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event, Jamaica’s Jeff Panton today confirmed his participation in Sol Rally Barbados 2018, after a successful return to island competition last weekend. The club’s 2017 champion driver is looking forward to “another amazing Rally Barbados” and taking on whatever the opposition can offer, following his hat-trick of victories since 2015.
Sol Rally Barbados 2018 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend, May 26/27. With the entry closing date just two weeks away, more than 70 crews are now shown in the online entry list on the official website, rallybarbados.net. Rally Trinidad 2018 winner Ryan Pinheiro was also confirmed today, along with United Kingdom newcomer Geoff Phelps, boosting the 4 wheel drive entry to 22.
Panton and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr won in both directions at last Sunday’s Motoring Club of Barbados Inc. Full Throttle 18 in the north of the island in their Ford Focus WRC06. Having missed the MCBI’s season-opener three weeks ago, waiting on parts for the Focus, Panton said: “We used the speed event on Sunday to shake down the car and it felt great, with no issues.”
Thirteen times the winner of the island’s premier event, Roger Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B) will not be Panton’s only threat, with the return after a two-year absence of former UK national rally champion Paul Bird (Focus WRC08), who won in 2012 and 2013. Those three are the only winners of Sol Rally Barbados since 2009, when Kris Meeke, now with five WRC wins to his name, claimed his second victory. Panton said: “I always look forward to racing against Paul. Win, lose or draw, it makes for a highly competitive rally. We are looking forward to another amazing Rally Barbados and we will do our best.”
The first regional winner of the former International All-Stage Rally – in 1998, with John de Mercado in a Toyota Celica GT4 – Panton has built a reputation as the region’s most successful driver; twice the Caribbean Rally Champion (1996 & 1998), Panton is unique in having won regional rallying’s ‘Big Three’ – tarmac in Barbados (1998, 2015-2017), gravel in Jamaica (nine times between 1994 and 2015) and Trinidad & Tobago (2011 & 2013) – and also finished on the podium in all three for two straight seasons (2012 & 2013). (RB)