With no fewer than five driver challenges, three of them at night, and a route that touches all 11 of the island’s parishes, this weekend’s Sol June Safari will be a tough test of mental and physical stamina for crews contesting the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) 2018 Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship.
And, with only five former winners on the entry list, there is a strong chance that new names could be added to the 71 currently listed on the event’s roll of honour.
‘The June’ is the longest-established motorsport event in the region with a continuous history. Weeks after it was first run in 1957, the organising committee called together the 60 or so participating crews and agreed to form the BRC. While it has been superseded by Sol Rally Barbados as the club’s premier event, ‘The June’ remains a keystone of the calendar, and victory is on many a club member’s ‘bucket’ list.
Navigational rally veterans Leslie Alleyne and Wayne Clarke are the most successful of the previous winners entered for this weekend’s event. Alleyne tops the table with two victories as navigator and six as driver, most recently last year with four-time winning navigator Chris O’Neal, and will be hoping to add to his remarkable record in the Isuzu D-Max.
Clarke’s six wins have all come as navigator, two with Don Hunte in the early 1990s, followed by four since 2000 with Chris Armstrong, the last in 2013; they, too, are ready for this weekend’s challenge in their Toyota Hilux. The fifth winner is navigator Warrick Eastmond, whose victory came in 2016 with Michael Ward, sitting this weekend with Christopher King in a Nissan Frontier.
Champions in 2010, Ryan Corbin and Dustin Edwards (Toyota Hilux) are leading the title chase again this year after two of five rounds. They have three times finished second in ‘The June’ – in 2008, 2011 & 2013 – also third in 2012 and last year, so must be considered as potential winners. Ben Norris and Kirk Watkins (Toyota Land Cruiser) have also twice finished in the top three, so they cannot be discounted.
The route-setter for the Sol June Safari is Gary Mendes, who has broken down the only round of the MudDogs Championship to run through the night into three routes. From the start at Sol Wildey at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday (June 23), the first route will head towards the eastern parishes before doubling back to the dinner halt at Sol Warrens at around 10 p.m. From there, crews will head north, taking a morning break at Sol Speightstown at approximately 4.30 a.m, before the third route will carry them to St Lucy, before returning to the finish at around 11 a.m. on Sunday at the Wreck Bar and Restaurant in Mullins, St Peter.
The driver challenges, which count towards the separate year-end Shelbury Construction Trophy, are spread throughout the event. MudDogs Chairman Ricky Holder noted: “There are some excellent challenges planned, right across the island, and I would ask spectators to be mindful of the landowners who have allowed us to use their properties and to obey the parking instructions of our marshals.”
Jean-Marc Cozier, who is always a front-runner in the driver challenges in his Honda Pioneer, is absent from this weekend’s event, as it clashes with other sporting commitments. Although the Honda will be driven by Benjamin Moore, guided by Cozier’s regular navigator Andrew Croney, a shake-up in the standings is on the cards.
There are three driver challenges in the first route (times are approximate): at 5 p.m. on Saturday, south of the Four Square Factory in St Philip, with spectator access via a cart road off to the right when heading from the cricket field towards Gales Hatchery; at 6.30 p.m., in the Colleton Plantation Yard in the same parish; finally at 8.30 p.m., at Boarded Hall, Christ Church, with access to the east of the Boarded Hall Police Station, heading towards the old Cable and Wireless radio station.
The fourth challenge is in route two, at around 12.30 a.m., to the south of Vaucluse, with spectator access via a cart road on the right heading down Hangman’s Hill towards Hopewell; the final challenge, at 6.30 a.m., will be in the Shooting Swamp in St Lucy – spectators need to head north from St Lucy’s Church, through Trents, then turn right at the first crossroads, then immediately right again, on the first cart road into the swamp.
The Sol June Safari prize-giving will follow publication of the results at the Country View Bar, Market Hill, St George next Tuesday, June 26 at 7 p.m.