Motor racing enthusiasts are in for two weeks of fast, pulsating action when the 2018 edition of Sol Rally Barbados and FLOW King of the Hill runs from May 26th to June 4th at various venues across the island.
During this morning’s official launch at Mahogany Ridge, St Thomas, to announce the plans and changes for the 29th staging of the event, organizers confirmed a quality 93-car entries with a whopping 43 from overseas for the fourth consecutive year.
This year promises to be extremely competitive and “island legend” as he is referred to by his motoring compatriots, former Sol Rally king Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete will lead the charge for Barbados as he seeks to dethrone Jeff Panton of Jamaica with the assistance of co-driver Louis Venezia. Panton claimed his fourth consecutive title last year at Sol Rally Barbados.
Not only Skeete will have his eyes on Panton but also former 2012 and 2013 winner Paul Bird from the United Kingdom. Between those three no other driver has won since 2009 and it will take something special if anyone is to pull off the upset win over Panton in his famously unstoppable Ford Focus currently sponsored by Rubis.
The key racing events hosted by the Barbados Rally Club are the Sol Rally from June 1st to 3rd with the opening day scheduled to commence at Vaucluse in St Thomas, the new location for the ceremonial start that begins at 6.p.m. Day two on June 2nd will restart from Greenland in St Andrew from 10:30 a.m and restart 9:30 a.m the next day June 3rd at Bushy Park, St Phillip.
Flow King of the Hill is always a must-see event and will be held at Hangman’s Hill, St Thomas from 10 a.m to 5 p.m on May 27th. The day before on May 26th, members of the public will be afforded the opportunity from 1 p.m to meet and interact with some of the drivers when organizers stage its rally show which moved to the Banks facility in Wildey with an entry fee of $10.
The stage is also set for the return of night racing and on Saturday, June 2nd, persons will be treated to a four-loop showdown, as the stages rise to 13 this year, the most since 2011. The final day of Sol Rally promises to be a challenging one and this time around organizers intend to place a lot of emphasis on safety.
Speaking at today’s press conference, public relations officer of the Barbados Rally Club, Neil Barnard said: “With slightly longer stages, the final day looks set to be more challenging than in the recent past, with the contrast between Saturday’s short and bumpier stages and Sunday’s long and faster stages even more pronounced than usual. Malvern returns to Gutter Road and Redland, while Kendal includes the Ellesmere component, which has not been used for several years; both these variations are technically more challenging, particularly Ellesmere, slow and narrow in contrast to the rest of the stage, which is very fast and open. And it comes right at the end of the stage.
“This year we are placing, as you know we always do, some more emphasis on safety and protocol in terms of the rally itself. We have been working hard, Mark and myself along with the subcommittees, working with team on an individual basis leading up the event so far. So, we conducted long meetings with our road response team who are a very dedicated band of volunteers that deal with our communications and a lot of our issues as it relates to extraction of safety on the rally itself. We have already met with our stage commanders and some of their seconds in terms of marshal teams,” Barnard said.
Speaking on behalf of his company, general manager of Sol Barbados, Ezra Prescod, said the 11-year-old partnership that started in 2011 had been exciting and he thanked the Barbados Rally Club for the opportunity to support local motorsport.
This year Sol has opted to split the sponsorship between its top three drivers. Thus, Roger Hill will race under the Esso brand which is under the Sol group of companies while the father and son team of Roger Skeete and Dane will remain as Sol.
Meanwhile, Flow communications officer, Alan Harris, said from a sponsor’s perspective, they were pleased with the progress the event had made and looked forward to the Barbados Rally Club Flow Super Sprint Series of which the telecommunication company are the title sponsors.