British crowd favourite Martin Stockdale is heading to the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event for the 20th time this year, a record among overseas visitors, regional or international. When his BMW 1M Coupe leaves the Speightstown start of Sol Rally Barbados 2022 on Saturday, June 4, his total number of starts will also outstrip all but a handful of local drivers.
But for the intervention of the coronavirus pandemic, Stockdale’s participation would have been in consecutive years, after he admits to having been “bitten by the Barbados bug”, along with his wife Glenis, whose contribution in recent years has been to organise an annual catamaran trip, which has served to introduce many a first-timer into the spirit of Bajan rallying.
“We’re really looking forward to going back to Barbados having missed the last two years. We’re ready for some great motor sport and ‘liquid sunshine’. This will be our 20th Rally Barbados and my, how its changed over the years. I never imagined it would turn into such a regular, must-do event. It was then, and still is, a fantastic celebration of motor sport, and in a beautiful location. What more could you ask for?
“I remember the first time. As the plane approached the airport and literally splashed down onto the tarmac in pouring rain, I thought ‘where’s the sunshine we were promised?’. Then we got into a taxi and headed towards Bridgetown on a road that resembled a special stage in Clipstone Forest. We were soon bitten by the Barbados bug, the beautiful beaches, the kindness and support of the locals and some fiercely competitive motor sport. Brilliant. Over the years things have got even better,” Stockdale said.
Since that first visit in 2001, he has taken home a trophy pretty much every year, his succession of BMWs hugely popular with island fans. From his original M3, through the mighty V8-powered M3 GTR, M3 Compact and his current 1M Coupe, powered by a 3-litre V6 Jaguar engine, his choice of machinery combined with his press-on driving style soon earned him the nickname ‘Mad-dale’ and the undying affection of the fans.
He also soon made friends with local competitors, in particular Jonathan Still, who became a BMW aficionado, and Greg Cozier, and has also become a ‘manufacturer’, building Historic class BMW 325s for Wayne Archer and Stuart White, also a production line of BimmaCup cars for Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia.
In terms of results, his best overall finishes have been seventh in 2002, when he also won the Modified Open class and copped the trophy as highest-placed overseas crew in his original M3, then 12th in 2007, when he finished second in SuperModified 11 in his M3 GTR. He has also won Group B (2003 & 2005), the Sunday Cup (2004) and collected the highest-placed non-national Rwd trophies (2017 & 2018).
This year, with sponsorship from Canems Engine Management, Drive-a-Matic Car Rentals, BMW Barn and Divi Southwinds Beach Hotel, he will also have the support of island co-driver James Hutchinson, who is coming out of retirement. Hutchinson shared four straight class wins in King of the Hill with Rhett Watson in a BMW M3 in 2014 to 2017, also won SM12 and finished top two-wheel-drive (2wd) in Sol Rally Barbados 2015 and 2016.
Meanwhile, fellow competitors and officials of the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) have been quick to thank those volunteers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean who oversaw the safe loading and off-loading of more than 20 rally cars at each end of their journey to Barbados on the Geest Line freighter Luzon Straight, which landed in the island on Monday.
BRC treasurer Jeanne Crawford, herself among the Bridgetown Port crew, said: “These rally cars are precious to their owners, who park them on a dock in the UK, knowing they won’t see them for a few weeks. Every year, a small crew of our UK regulars work with the dockside staff to ensure that they are loaded carefully in Portsmouth, then a group of club members at this end helps in off-loading them. This gives real peace of mind to our competitors, particularly newcomers and I just can’t thank them enough.”
The Portsmouth crew was Andrew and Melissa Costin-Hurley – Andrew also notes down any specifics, such as a flat battery or complex starting procedure, as advance info for the Bridgetown helpers – Stephen Gregory, Kathy and Dick Mauger, Martin Stockdale, Dylan Thomas, Nigel Worswick, Chris Shooter and partner Bev LeGood. In Barbados, Team Leader was Barry Mayers, with Jeremy Gonsalves and Roger Hill in the hold, then also Roger Mayers and Graham Gittens on the dock.
Treasurer Crawford added: “I should also thank the wrecker drivers Kirtis Prescod, ‘Soldierman’ Batson, Alvin Nurse and Owen Cumberbatch, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Tourism, Barbados Port Inc, Barbados Customs & Excise Department, our broker Calvin Alkins Customs Services and the staff of both Customs and Barbados Port Inc in Shed 4.”
Sol Rally Barbados is June 4 and 5 and First Citizens King of the Hill is May 29. (RB)