Jamaican Rally driver Jeffery Panton said he feels as though a target has been placed on his back for this year’s Sol Rally Barbados.
“We always feel like we have a big target painted on our backs after these years here. But we are ready for the challenge and any competition that comes our way hopefully we will rise to the challenge,” he said.
Over the weekend Panton and his navigator Michael Fennell Jr. won their fourth consecutive King of the Hill at Barbados Rally Club’s Sol Rally Barbados Shakedown in their Rubis/Sandals/KIG Ford Focus WRC06.
Speaking to the media at a mix and mingle held at Sandals Barbados, St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church today, Panton said leading up to the event they had a lot of delays as they were still learning their vehicle which had been modified.
“We were playing catch-up the whole day and fortunately for us, we were able to catch up by a point and at the end, we were able to secure victory. But it does make the situation for Rally Barbados a lot more unknown for us. We will be pushing as hard as we can from the beginning and hopefully we will be on top,” he said.
Panton said he did not have to make any adjustments to his Ford Focus WRC06 following King of The Hill.
“No adjustments whatsoever. We have pretty much all of our settings down from years ago and we just continue that. Sometimes according to the stage, we may do some fine-tuning to the suspensions and that usually happens during the rally,” he said.
Panton told the media that he could not identify a particular driver who he thinks would be his biggest competitor on the track but he believed Dane Skeete who will be leading the Barbadian contingent with his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B and Rob Swann from the United Kingdom who will be driving his Impreza S12B, would be strong contenders.
The four-time champion said Rally Barbados was special because of the hundreds of fans who turned up to support motorsport.
“Definitely the fans. The Bajan public on a whole the way they support motorsports on a whole is second to none in the region. We don’t see that in Jamaica, we don’t see that anywhere else in the Caribbean that we have every rallied,” he said.
Panton said he has already scoped the route on Monday and made notes and will be doing another drive through in a regular vehicle on Friday to ensure he has familiarized himself with the new route.
“We will do our final review by the end of the week before the start of the rally. We have an idea already what the stages are like, what the conditions are like and whatever changes and adjustments we need to make to the car, we will do that,” he said.
Panton said that he was appreciative of the sponsorship from Rubis and Sandals respectively.
“We are very pleased, I mean Sandals Barbados looks after us. It is unbelievable what they do for us when we are here. We are here usually for ten days and they feed and house us for ten days and it is an entire team so it is a lot of people. This is a part of their busiest season, they are 98 percent occupancy now and for them to fit us in is very special. Rubis has been with us and stuck with us from 2012. We did not win in 2012 but we showed them that we had the potential to do it, and they stuck with us and we are very thankful for that,” he said.