On their debut in the event’s World Rally Car class, Barbados’ Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew won Sol Rally Barbados 2019 on Sunday, the 30th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event. After a weekend of high drama and a rarely-seen level of attrition among the front-runners, their margin of victory in the Subaru Impreza WRC S12B was just over one minute.
Two British crews achieved their best results to complete the podium. Third two years ago, Roger Duckworth (Technia Impreza WRC S6), co-driven by Mark Broomfield, finished second, while Scotland’s Andy Scott and Laura Connell (Ford Fiesta R5) finished third. Duckworth also collected the award as highest-placed non-national four-wheel drive (4wd), while Scott won the new FIA R5 class and Connell was highest-placed female co-driver.
After the results were made final yesterday Ezra Prescod, general manager of Sol Barbados, made the presentations at a packed prize-giving at The Boatyard Beach Bar. In addition to trophies for first place and victory in WRC, Skeete and Mayhew earned the grateful thanks of a nation of rally fans, happy for the title to stay at home for the first time since 2014, when Skeete’s father Roger claimed his 13th victory, co-driven in the same Impreza by Louis Venezia.
Winners for the previous four years, Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennel Jnr (Ford Focus WRC06), were absent from the proceedings, Panton being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for injuries sustained in a high-speed accident on Sunday’s first special stage, which wrecked their Ford Focus WRC06. In a true show of rally camaraderie, when Rally director Neil Barnard visited him on Sunday evening, a somewhat groggy Panton’s first words, once he had recognised Barnard, were: “Did Dane win the rally?” When he was told yes, he said: “Make sure and tell him congrats.”
The drama surrounding the landmark event started before the weekend, when a new engine Rob Swann needed for his Impreza arrived a day late, leaving him to rely on his damaged engine for Friday night’s three stages from Golden Grove to Bushy Park. Swann and Steve McNulty won the first, Panton the second, only for him to run off the road on the third, handing the advantage back to Swann. The Englishman’s engine let go a few hundred yards later, however, leaving Skeete fastest, for an overnight lead of 4.8secs to Britain’s Kevin Procter and Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta), with Scott third.
Thousands of fans who turned out for Saturday’s 10 stages at Mount Poyer, Automotive Art Vaucluse and Spring Vale were treated to a memorable day of action, as Panton and Duckworth drove hard to claw back time, the Englishman after an overshoot and stall on Friday’s first stage. Panton started the day 31st, 85secs behind Skeete, Duckworth 22nd and 56secs. By close of play, they were second and third, 55 and 25secs behind the rally leader. The leaderboard was ever-changing, no fewer than 15 drivers setting top six times, but with attrition taking its toll. After his first stage win in Barbados, Procter at last looked set to claim that elusive podium, but his gearbox let go on the final stage.
Sunday morning’s first Sagicor Kendall stage was cancelled after Panton’s accident, while Malvern had been shortened for safety reasons, cutting the competitive distance for the day from 50 to 40 kilometres, allowing less scope for drivers playing catch-up. But there was a final twist yet to come at the top of the leader board. Local crew Mark Thompson and Kurt Seabra (Modified 4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) were fast all weekend, outside the top 10 stage times only twice, even winning Sunday’s second stage, when Skeete spun, delaying Duckworth. By mid-afternoon, after swapping places back and forth with Scott, Thompson snatched third place with his stage win, then steadily built the advantage . . . until his gearbox let go three stages from home.
Reflecting on the result, Skeete said: “I hoped to at least make the podium in my first Sol Rally Barbados in the car. After Friday night there was more hope, with the others having issues, but there were still two days of rallying to go. We knew Jeffrey would apply pressure but worked on being steady. On Sunday, the top step looked do-able and I told Tyler we could do it without being flat out and taking risks. The spin on Malvern was right after I found out about Jeffrey and Mike’s crash; my mind was more on them than anything else. While happy to have won for my sponsors and fans, I wish Jeffrey and Mike well and hope to see them in full health soon.”
Duckworth, who arrived while Skeete was recovering from his spin, was also affected by the events of the previous stage. “Sunday was tricky, having been first on scene with Jeffrey’s accident, which rattled me as it is a real reminder of how fast we are really going. We tried to be sensible the remainder of the day and kept in touch with Dane’s stage times and made it to the finish.”
Scott said: “We have a podium result, which is wonderful, but it wasn’t our focus. The aim was to stay ahead in R5, after being disappointed with King of the Hill. The weekend was flawless. I didn’t put a foot wrong until I tried to take the chicane at Vaucluse faster than I had to.” Procter, who first brought Scott to the island, said: “Hat’s off to him. I’ve been coming here for 17 years and would give my left leg to be on that podium.”
Four more overseas crews finished in the top 10. On their second visit with the Skoda Fabia, Tom Preston and Carl Williamson were second in R5, fourth overall, ahead of local Toyota dealer Roger Hill (Corolla WRC), who claimed a record 21st top 10 finish, winning M4 with co-driver Graham Gittens. Then there were personal bests for: Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho and local co-driver Barry Ward (Fiesta), sixth and third in R5; Britain’s Graham Coffey (Fiesta), with Jack Morton, seventh and third in WRC, then Nigel Worswick and Sophie Louise Buckland (Ford Escort WRC), eighth and second in M4, after some late-event dramas. Local crews Avinash Chatrani/Andrew Skeete (M4 Evo VI) and Andrew Mallalieu/Geoff Goddard (M4 Impreza) completed the top 10.
For only the second time in the 30-year history of the event, there were no two-wheel drive cars in the top 10. After previous winners Roger Mayers (Toyota WR Starlet, engine SS5), Rhett Watson (BMW M3, driveshaft SS11) and Barry Mayers (Fiesta, cam belt SS11) had retired on Saturday, the 2wd front-runners after the overnight re-seed made for unusual reading. Stan Hartling (SuperModified 3 BMW M3) headed Stuart Maloney (SM2 Citroen C2), Chris Ullyett (M2 Escort RS2000) and Alex Allingham (Historic Escort MkII), with just a 16-secs spread across their times.
As Sunday’s stages unfolded, Maloney, with nephew Justin on the notes, eased ahead of Hartling to finish 12th overall and top 2wd by 43secs. Returning to an event in which he was twice a class-winner in the 1990s and overall winner as co-driver to Paul Bourne in 2007, Maloney said: “Saturday morning, I was thinking of retiring, because the car wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do, but Brett Judd asked me to persevere. We made some changes stage-by-stage to make it driveable; through attrition and being reliable, we had a good result on the debut of the car, despite having a lot more work to do.”
With co-driver Jeremy Croney, Hartling finished 13th overall, second in 2wd and winners of M3. But the Turks & Caicos Motoring Club had much more to celebrate. Hartling also won the BMW Challenge Trophy from local dealer MQI and the highest-placed Non-national rwd award. Paul Horton and Kris Yearwood (Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX) finished second in M2 and nabbed the highest non-national fwd award. Pierre Beswick and Leslie Evanson (Citroen C2 R2 MAX) finished third in M1, while Hartling’s son Sam and Kevin-Jon Manning (BMW 318ti Compact) collected Finishers Caps for 46th overall. Sam’s brother Ben and Dwayne Forde had two axle failures on their C2 R2 in successive stages on Saturday, but returned to finish second in the Sunday Cup.
Allingham and Ross Weir’s H2 win, 15th overall, rounded off an impressive island debut for the triple Welsh champion, although the co-driver has visited many times and the car last year, driven by its builder Dave Jenkins. Allingham was just getting stuck in to a cracking battle with Greg Cozier, when the local man’s Escort engine blew on Saturday. Returning British couple Chris Shooter and Bev Le Good (Escort) finished second, having lost third in class to Jenkins just a few stages from home last year.
Ullyett’s M2 class win, with daughter Chantal the co-driver, came nine years after the Escort last finished the event, 26th overall and second in M7, in 2010. Other local class-winners were Edward Corbin for the fourth year in a row (M1 Daihatsu Charmant – 19th o/a), Ian Warren (Clubman 2 BimmaCup – 27th o/a) adding to his five class wins between 2006 & 2013, first-time winner Jason Harewood (SM1 Toyota Starlet – 28th o/a) and Andrew Jones (Escort), who would have claimed his third top 10 finish in six years, but for switching to Group B, not eligible for overall awards.
After a number of issues, including a wheel coming loose on Friday night, Owen Cumberbatch and Kelly-Ann Sandiford won the Sunday Cup in their BMW M3, sharing the eight fastest times with Justin Campbell and Ayrton Bannister (M3), who failed to start the final stage. Behind Ben Hartling, Jermin Pope/Aaron Kirton (Honda Civic) finished third, with four more overseas drivers among those who collected trophies.
Overseas crews claimed four more class wins or podiums. US-based Englishman Edward Perry (Mitsubishi Clot RS) was the lone survivor in C1, while Andrew Costin-Hurley (Ford Puma Evo), competing for the 16th time since 2003, was the lone starter in GpB2. The latter’s co-driver Rob Brook described it as the toughest class win he had ever endured, even with no opposition, such was the work driver Costin-Hurley, the car’s creator, had to do late into the night during the event.
On their Caribbean island debut, Jersey islanders Darryl Morris and Steve Gully finished 17th overall and second in SM2, heading an entertaining ever-sideways flock of British MkII Escorts. Peter Rayner/Ashley Trimble and Steve Finch/Sam Fordham finished third and fourth, 20th and 21st overall, Richard Seal and local co-driver Kareem Gaskin fifth and Graham Haigh, seeded at 65 to mark his birthday, seventh with Kari Bates.