Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell re-wrote the record books again yesterday (Sunday) with their fourth straight victory in Flow King of the Hill, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) annual Sol Rally Barbados shakedown.
Having trailed England’s Rob Swann for the first three runs, Panton made the final run count, to win by a margin of 12 hundredths of a second in his Ford Focus WRC06.
With the car undergoing a total rebuild, Panton has seen no action since last year, as he explained at the finish. “The times today reflect how much I had to catch back up. All day I really thought Rob had it, right up to the last run when we put on a set of fresh tyres and just went for it. To come out on top is a major confidence boost for next weekend, when we need to be driving more like we did in the last run.”
Swann’s determination was evident from the first run in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B – at 2m 17.43s, he was 2secs quicker than Panton, despite giving local fan Amy Speede a passenger ride in co-driver Steve McNulty’s seat. Swann said: “It was my intention to be on full attack and I am sure Amy enjoyed it. With Steve back in the car, the second run was good and I had more to give. Unfortunately, I stalled on the line for run three, which should have been our quick one, so I aborted it. Then on the fourth, I made a couple of small mistakes on the loose part through Golden Grove and at this level you can’t afford any mistakes, however small.”
Still getting used to the huge differences between his former Peugeot 306 Maxi and the Impreza S12B, Barbados’ Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew were not far adrift, 1.48s behind Panton on their final run. Skeete said that it felt good to be in the mix with Panton and Swann, especially not having perfect runs and still being a bit untidy.
“We took no risks and I don’t think that third on the road for Sol Rally Barbados is a bad place to be, so I’m hoping to jump them on Friday.”
England’s Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta) was fourth, another 3.6secs behind Skeete, but just one-quarter of a second ahead of Roger Mayers (Toyota WR Starlet), who finished fastest two-wheel-drive for the first time since 2014. Mayers said: “We had a lot of work to do after Shakedown handling-wise and the car feels perhaps better than before. I am confident headed into the weekend, unlike last year where I just had one run at King of the Hill and had a lower road position for the rally. This year, fifth on the road is good and I will set my sights on Mr Procter over the weekend.”
Roger Hill (Toyota Corolla WRC) finished sixth and won Modified 4, having trailed Mark Thompson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) in the class until the final run – Thompson ended up ninth overall – with Rhett Watson and Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta) seventh and eighth. Another lacking seat time in his BMW M3, Watson noted that it was a little difficult getting back in and feeling the car out. “By the second run, the feeling was there, but the car is very different with the improvements that come with a new shell, so I don’t feel bad to be a second or so off Barry and Roger. I know where some of that time can be found.”
Now running in Group B and therefore not eligible for overall position, Andrew Jones powered the Ford Escort MkII to 10th fastest, ahead of British visitors Tom Preston and Nigel Worswick, who added donuts to the menu in the later runs once they were sure of a strong result.
Preston, who won the new FIA R5 class in the Hippo Motor Group Skoda Fabia, said: “It has been beautiful here. We had a solid third run and then did some entertaining in the last. During the week we’ll be enjoying what the country has to offer until Thursday, then it’s rally mode.” Worswick was third in M4 in the Escort WRC.
The return to Stewart’s Hill attracted huge crowds, who gathered from early to bag the best vantage points, not only along and overlooking the Thickets straight, but also lining earlier sections of the 4.45kms course, which started at St Catherine’s Church. Trevor Manning (Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo) and then Nigel Reece, co-driven in the MQI-supported BimmaCup car by Daryl Clarke, warmed the crowd up in Zero Car mode ahead of the record-breaking field of 95 cars, which ran in reverse order of seeding, from Clubman up to WRC. All but one of the 95 recorded a time on at least one run.
While the smallest margin of victory had been the overall win, there were other victories claimed in tenths of a second. In SM1, Jeremy Gonsalves (Opel Corsa) beat Neil Corbin (Electric Starlet), by just 0.75s after Corbin pulled off on the second run with a severe vibration and did not reappear. In Modified 2, Jamal Brathwaite (Honda Civic Type-R) beat Paul Horton of the Turks & Caicos Motoring Club by 0.77s. Horton was behind the wheel of a Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX reshelled after a major accident just four weeks before. In Historic 2, impressive first-timer Alex Allingham (Ford Escort MkII) headed consistent class-winner Greg Cozier (Escort RS) by 0.96s.
Logan Watson (BMW M3) won the new M3 class by a margin of 1.6s from Justin Campbell (BMW M3) while Edward Corbin (BGI Daihatsu Charmant) headed Scotland’s Kenny Hall (Ford Puma S1600) for M1 honours by 3.68s. Returning to Sol Rally Barbados after a few years’ absence, Ian Warren (BimmaCup) won Clubman 2, while first-time driver on the island’s premier event, Jason Tull (Peugeot 106 Rallye S2) took home the C1 trophy. (RB)
Official results: 1st Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM (WRC Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06), 2m 14.67s
2nd Rob Swann – ENG/Steve McNulty – ENG (WRC Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/RA Swann Ltd Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), + 00.12s
3rd Dane Skeete/Tyler Mayhew (WRC Sol/CO Williams Sand & Lime/Automotive Art Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), + 01.48s
4th Kevin Procter – ENG/Patrick Walsh – WAL (WRC Procters Coaches/Swift Signs & Shirts Ford Fiesta), + 05.15s
5th Roger Mayers/Sean Corbin (SM2 Chefette/Rubis/Hankook/Sign Depot Toyota WR Starlet), + 05.42s
6th Roger Hill/Graham Gittens (M4 Esso/Nassco/Pennzoil/MaxMeyer Paints/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC), + 06.73s
7th Rhett Watson/Bradley Weekes (SM2 Chefette/Gliptone/Stihl/Leafy Organics/Gunk/Power King Batteries/Bajan Pure Water/Its Barbados BMW M3), + 06.82s
8th Barry Mayers/Ben Norris (SM2 Chefette/Rubis/Hankook/Sign Depot Ford Fiesta), + 07.39s
9th Mark Thompson/Kurt Seabra – GUY (M4 Glassesco/NKM Clothing/Bio Beauty/Automotive Art/SLAM 101.1FM Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), + 07.92s
10th Tom Preston – ENG/Carl Williamson – WAL (FIA R5 Hippo Motor Group Skoda Fabia R5), + 08.21s.