In the first announcement about its plans for next year’s 30th running of its premier event, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) has confirmed that Flow King of the Hill will move to Stewarts Hill in St Philip. Run on the Sunday before the main event since 2008, the event plays a key role in seeding the running order for Sol Rally Barbados, and the change of venue has already found favour with Britain’s Rob Swann, who describes it as “a great spectator stage, which has a bit of everything.”
Sol Rally Barbados 2019 will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 25/26). The event has evolved from small beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally of 1990 into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sports International and a key national event on the island’s sports-tourism calendar.
The BRC returned to the popular venue in the south-east corner of the island for the first time in six years last month (October 28) for the Flow Winter Sprint, the double-header finale of the new-for-2018 Flow SuperSprint Series. Swann finished a close second to Jamaica’s Jeff Panton in both directions, after making a late decision to enter, as it would bring back good memories of his first King of the Hill in 2009.
Swann, who has finished second in Sol Rally Barbados three times in the past five years, said: “I was really pleased to read about the Winter Sprint, as Stewarts Hill in 2009 was our first King of the Hill, as we only did Rally Barbados in 2008, due to British Rally Championship commitments. And to hear that it will be King of the Hill next year is great news, a welcome change. It’s a great spectator stage, which has a bit of everything – all our gang have enjoyed watching there and as a driver you can see the crowds. On the main straight, there’s plenty of time to wave, if you feel like it.
“I love driving the stage, too. From the start-line, its very fast into a very committed left-hander which, if taken well, carries so much speed on to the very fast section with blind corners, and that’s all top gear stuff. Then you go through the cut rock with some crests and open out on to the main straight, which seems to go on forever. Braking is all you think about, trying to be as late as possible. Then you turn in and attack the hill, which has a series of twisty bumpy corners, all the while climbing, so you don’t want to scrub off any speed. After all that, it’s time to pester the co-driver: ‘How did we do? Come on, it must have been quicker than that’ is the usual comment from me.”
After the inaugural event in 2008 at Turners Hall in St Andrew, King of the Hill moved venues, first to Stewarts Hill, then Sailor Gully in St Peter, before finding a more permanent home on Hangman’s Hill in St Thomas, where it has run every year since 2011, apart from 2013, when it moved to Luke Hill in St Lucy. For the past four years, the Hangman’s Hill route has also taken in various configurations of the Vaucluse Raceway.
The BRC’s Winter Sprint was in part a trial run for next year, as Sol Rally Barbados chairman Mark Hamilton explained: “As in previous years, we are always looking to make changes to our premier event and the two weeks of activities that revolve around it, with a view to keep things interesting for both competitors and spectators, while at the same time staying true to the core values that have served us so well in the past. The iconic Hangman’s Hill stage has been very successful as the venue for King of the Hill for many years, but we felt it was time to introduce something new, and with an equally iconic and popular venue for 2019.
“Stewarts Hill offers many attributes that make it a very challenging course for drivers, while at the same time offering great viewing, as well as the ability to enter and exit the spectator areas while the event is underway. Its use for the Flow Winter Sprint was well received by everyone and the preliminary work undertaken by the Club for that event underlined the potential the venue offers with more infrastructure in place.
“We have every confidence that Flow King of the Hill 2019 will reach the same levels of success enjoyed in previous years. And I’m delighted that Rob Swann, one of our most loyal overseas visitors, is looking forward to next year, but he should know that the course for Flow King of the Hill 2019 won’t be quite the same as it was for the double-header . . .” (RB)
King of the Hill – winners, 2008 – 2018
2018 (H) Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM (Ford Focus WRC06)
2wd: Barry Mayers/Ben Norris (Ford Fiesta), 9th overall
2017 (H) Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM (Ford Focus WRC06)
2wd: Rhett Watson/James Hutchinson (BMW M3), 7th o/a
2016 (H) * Simon Jean-Joseph – FRA/Jack Boyere – FRA (Ford Focus WRC08)
* Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM (Ford Focus WRC06)
2wd: Josh Read/Mark Jordan (Toyota Starlet), 6th o/a
* joint winners, final run cancelled
2015 (H) Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B)
2wd: Josh Read/Mark Jordan (Toyota Starlet), 7th o/a
2014 (H) Paul Bird – ENG/Aled Davies – WAL (Ford Focus WRC08)
2wd: Roger Mayers/Sean Corbin (WR Starlet), 8th o/a
2013 (L) Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (Suzuki SX4 WRC)
2wd: Roger Mayers/Barry Mayers (WR Starlet), 6th o/a
2012 (H) Paul Bird – ENG/Kirsty Riddick – SCO (Ford Focus WRC08)
2wd: Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (Toyota Starlet), 8th o/a
2011 (H) Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B)
2wd: Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (Toyota Starlet), 9th o/a
2010 (SG) Paul Bourne/Stuart Maloney (Ford Focus WRC 07)
2wd: Ian Warren/Robert Warren (Suzuki Swift), 5th o/a
2009 (SH) Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B)
2wd: Ian Warren/Robert Warren (Suzuki Swift), 9th o/a
2008 (T) Paul Bourne/Stuart Maloney (Subaru Impreza WRC S9)
2wd: Sean Gill/Michael Cummins (Suzuki Swift), 6th o/a