Motorsport will take the spotlight over the next two weekends with first this Sunday’s Flow King of the Hill expected to garner significant attention. Then, next weekend’s 30th running of Sol Rally Barbados 2019 is anticipated to be the buzz around the island.
A record entry of 95 crews will contest this Sunday’s event. A classic showdown between local, regional and international drivers is on the cards, to be played out in front of huge crowds as the event makes a popular return to Stewart’s Hill, an iconic venue in island motor sport.
Dane Skeete steps up to lead the ‘home team’, driving the Subaru Impreza WRC S12B in which his father Roger won King of the Hill three times, a score equalled last year by Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Ford Focus WRC06). With Britain’s Rob Swann (Impreza S12B) and Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta) also in the mix – their best finishes are, respectively, second in 2017 and third in 2008 – the result of Sunday’s event is not a foregone conclusion, but the outcome will fuel some lively discussions among fans in the coming days.
The provisional running order published today lists the 95 starters – four more than the previous record entry in 2012 – in 12 classifications. The results of Flow King of the Hill will be used to seed Sol Rally Barbados 2019. Drivers who either don’t compete or fail to set a time will be seeded behind the last car in their class, unless safety considerations dictate otherwise. Only three Sol Rally Barbados 2019 entries are missing – from overseas, Roger Duckworth (Subaru Impreza WRC S6) and New Zealand’s Nick Marshall (Peugeot 106 Maxi), along with local driver Kenny Cumberbatch (BMW M3).
Flow King of the Hill returns to Stewart’s Hill for the first time since 2009, although using a slightly different 4.5-kilometre course, starting at St Catherine’s Church. Cars will run in reverse order of seeding, from Clubman 1 up to WRC, with the first of four runs – two each before and after the lunch break – slated for 10.05 a.m; there is no practice run, with the fastest time deciding competitors’ finishing positions.
Barbados Rally Club and Sol Rally Barbados 2019 Chairman Mark Hamilton said that as Sol Rally Barbados has developed, so to has Flow King of the Hill, thanks to the enthusiasm and energy the sponsor brings to the event. “Sunday’s record entry is sure to provide competitors and fans alike with a spectacular day’s sport, particularly as the format of four official runs and no practice means drivers have to be on it from the get-go,” Hamilton said.
From the first King of the Hill at Turner’s Hall in 2008, local drivers Paul Bourne (2008, Impreza S9 & 2010, Focus WRC07) and Skeete (2009 & 2011, Impreza S12B) shared the laurels, as it moved first to Stewart’s Hill, then Sailor Gully and Hangman’s Hill. England’s Paul Bird (Focus WRC08) won back at Hangman’s Hill in 2012, and again in 2014, Neil Armstrong (Suzuki SX4) winning in 2013, at Luke Hill. Victory at Hangman’s Hill in 2015, the first year the test ran through the Vaucluse Raceway, was Skeete’s third, while Panton and Simon Jean-Joseph (Focus WRC08) shared the crown in 2016 after a rain-affected final run. Winner for the past two years, Panton is now tied with Skeete on three wins.
Highest-placed two-wheel-drive car for the first three years was the legendary Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift, with Sean Gill sixth in his last season in the car (2008), then Ian Warren ninth and fifth, which remains the highest overall King of the Hill finish for two-wheel drive. Neil Armstrong then kicked off six years of Toyota Starlet successes, ninth and eighth overall in 2011 & 2012. The mantle was then assumed first by Roger Mayers, sixth and eighth in 2013 & 2014, then Josh Read, seventh and sixth in 2015 & 2016. Rhett Watson won in 2017 in his BMW M3, seventh overall, with Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta) the two-wheel drive King of the Hill last year, ninth overall.