Two diehard Welsh rally volunteers will finally head across the Atlantic this week for Sol Rally Barbados 2022 after winning the Marshals’ Prize Draw at Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion in September 2019, six months before the coronavirus pandemic began. Laura Sugden, from Pontyates in Carmarthenshire, will make the trip with her fiance Nathan Davies, who was also marshalling at the ground-breaking event, the first closed-road rally run in Wales.
Laura and Nathan were among 666 volunteers, just one of many weekends each year spent rallying, either as competitors or volunteers. The sport is in their blood, Laura with a father and uncles who rally, 29-year-old Nathan a successful co-driver, while both used to be on the roster of volunteers at Wales Rally GB, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, which last ran in 2019. Even their son, who will be seven this year, shares his first name with Osian Pryce, who won the opening round of the British Rally Championship last month.
The couple arrive in the island on Wednesday (May 25) with preparations already in high gear for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, Sol Rally Barbados 2022, which will run on June 4 and 5. As the BRC celebrates its 65th Anniversary, The Rally Show will be staged at Bushy Park Barbados next Saturday (May 28), with First Citizens King of the Hill from Content to the Vaucluse Raceway the following day. After a nearly two-week trip, they will land back in the UK on June 8, which is Laura’s 31st birthday – what a present!
When Laura won the prize, her enthusiasm for motoring had led her into a rather unlikely career, driving a 32-ton tipper truck for Tarmac: “I found myself out of work and being into cars and motor sport, I thought I’d like to have a job driving. One day, I decided to do my HGV Class 2 training, qualified and then passed my Class 1, and I loved it.”
Since then, however, things have changed, Laura working for a recovery firm for a while: “That was good fun and I enjoyed the challenge of recovering badly damaged vehicles, but the hours were just too much and I wanted to be at home more for my son. I’m now working as a site supervisor for FRF Toyota in Carmarthen and really enjoy my job there and work with a great bunch of people. Being a car girl, it is awesome to be able to drive the Yaris GR, I am a big fan of that car.”
When the pandemic started, all looked lost for Laura and her prize. “I thought this trip was never going to happen, especially when the rally was postponed in 2021. I just started thinking that Covid was always going to get in the way and that the organisers may just decide to offer an alternative. When we heard at the beginning of the year that Sol Rally Barbados would definitely run, me and Nathan still didn’t get too excited until we got the call. The last four weeks have flown and its mad to think that in a week’s time, we will be there. I’ve never been to the Caribbean before, so it’s going to be an amazing experience and I just can’t wait!”
The prize had come about as Rali Bae Ceredigion’s commercial manager is Charlie Jukes, who is still remembered by island fans for his press-on driving style in a front-wheel-drive Proton on his only visit to compete in 2001. Jukes said: “I have very happy memories of my trip to Barbados. It is such a special event and has a good following among Welsh crews, so it is an ideal reward for our volunteers, who are so important to motor sport on both sides of the Atlantic. Laura and Nathan put a lot in to the sport and they are worthy winners; we extend our best wishes to them both for a fantastic trip.”
Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard said: “We certainly look forward to welcoming Laura and Nathan to our island and our event after such a long wait and I’m sure that they will have an unforgettable experience. Our marshals carry out similar functions to those in the UK, it’s just that the environment and the weather are somewhat different!”