The Skeete legacy is safe.
Dane Skeete, son of regional rally legend Roger “The Sheriff” Skeete, launched the Barbados Rally Club’s driver and class championships in fine style yesterday with a solid exhibition of driving to claim a thrilling Shakedown Stages title from a quality line-up that included Britain’s second-place finisher Rob Swann.
Hundreds of spectators lined three special stage venues in the north of the island for the BRC Shakedown Stages to see Skeete soak up the pressure from the experienced Swann, fighting back through the field after losing time on the opening stage, and win by less than two seconds. Both drove Subaru Impreza WRC S12Bs.
Seeded at one, Swann and co-driver Darren Garrod hit trouble on the first 2.55-kilometre Josey Hill to Lamberts’ stage, when a boost pipe came off about three corners in, losing them 11 seconds to Skeete. Launch control failure on the start of stage two cost the British crew another four seconds to Skeete and co-driver Tyler Mayhew, before the fightback started.
Swann said: “We’d fixed the problem, but were not overly confident it would last, but we won the next six stages and got the gap down to half-a-second with two stages to go. Then the launch stopped working completely. Not so bad in Four Hills, as it is a downhill start and still managed to win the stage, but the Rock Hall start was uphill. We pushed hard, went a second quicker then the previous run but it wasn’t enough. Dane drove well, but I expected no less, as I have always viewed him as a talented driver. We need a reliable car, so that’s now the focus for Rally Barbados. Big thanks to Darren, who turns 40 today, and all our sponsors.”
Swann’s fight-back was helped on the first Four Hills stage after lunch, as Skeete explained: “I think if Rob didn’t have the issues he had today, I wouldn’t have ended up where I did, especially considering I had a slight off in the afternoon in Four Hills. I’m still green in the car and I haven’t gotten heavy braking in the car right yet, so there is still a lot more learning to do.”
The two Subarus headed the timesheets on eight of the 10 stages, Justin Campbell impressively second quickest on the day’s first stage in his BMW M3, although he was to miss the middle of the day following some electrical issues, while Skeete’s Four Hills moment allowed Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho to clock the second-fastest time in his Ford Fiesta R5.
Brothers Roger and Barry Mayers finished first and second in 2wd and SuperModified 2, respectively third and seventh overall, both comfortable with the day’s work. Roger (Toyota Starlet) said: “We rectified our engine issues from last year and played around with some tyres during this event. The new tyres didn’t give the confidence that was needed, as the car understeered quite a bit, and a swap to my last set of older-spec Hankooks brought an improvement of about 6 seconds in Four Hills.”
Barry (Ford Fiesta) added: “We got more confident in the car as the morning progressed. We weren’t 100 per cent there with Roger, but that was within my expectation and hopefully, I have an answer for that in Rally Barbados.”
Mark Thompson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Roger Hill finished fourth and fifth, battling throughout for honours in the new Modified 4 class. Thompson prevailed by just under 4 seconds, having been faster of the two on the first four of the day’s stages, run in mixed weather conditions. Thompson stated: “We started out with a solid first few stages avoiding spins and lockups in the slippery stages. The car, crew and co-driver were flawless. We have to fully run through the car again for Rally Barbados to make sure we have reliability, as we want to continue running in the top rankings as we did in this event.”
Alone in the FIA R5 class, finishing sixth overall, Coelho was also part of this battling group, which augurs well for Flow King of the Hill next month and Sol Rally Barbados over the first weekend of June, when an influx of four-wheel-drive cars from overseas is anticipated.
Behind Barry Mayers, the top 10 was completed by SM1 and M3 winners Neil Corbin (Starlet) and Logan Watson (BMW M3) and Kurt Thompson (Honda Civic), who finished third in SM2.
There were also wins in contested classes for the Turks & Caicos Motoring Club’s Paul Horton (M2 Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX), Edward Corbin (M1 Daihatsu Charmant), Ian Warren (Clubman 2 BimmaCup) and Andrew Jones (Group B Ford Escort MkII).
The 10-stage season-opener also marked the introduction of the RallySafe timing and event management system, which drew universal praise, both on the ground and online, as fans across the world used the RallySafe app to follow the action. Rally Club public relations officer Neil Barnard said it was a steep learning curve for all involved but the marshals did a sterling job despite having only one training session. He noted that the rally was well executed and the new RallySafe system was fantastic.