Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew have claimed their second victory in Sol Rally Barbados, adding this year’s trophies to those they won on their debut in the event’s World Rally Car class in their Subaru Impreza WRC S12 in Sol RB19. After a dramatic weekend of changing fortunes among the front-runners, their margin of victory in the 32nd running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event was one minute and 10 seconds.
A stunning performance on his own four-wheel-drive debut earned Josh Read second place and the FIA R5 class win with Barry Ward in the ex-Sol Esuf Ford Fiesta R5, the first time two local crews had been on the podium since Roger Skeete and Paul Bourne’s one-two in 2011. Britain’s Rob Swann and Darren Garrod finished third, the 10th top 10 finish for Swann, his fifth on the podium, back in his Fiesta Rally2 after engine problems at the previous weekend’s First Citizens King of the Hill sidelined the Impreza S12B.
After the results were made final yesterday (Monday), a packed Prizegiving at The Boatyard beach bar in the island’s capital, Bridgetown, heard from Roger Barrow, General Manager of Sol Barbados. “Thank you to the organisers for putting on such a great event for the drivers and all the support staff and it makes us as sponsors feel like we have made a good investment to see the quality of event that was put on.” He added that, looking at one of the Sunday stages, he saw the longest picnic area in Barbados, which confirmed to him that rally is indeed the biggest spectator sport in the island.
Skeete and Mayhew also won the WRC class and brought to five the number of overall wins for the Impreza, in which Skeete’s father Roger claimed the last three of his record 13 victories. Dane said: “This one was special as the team put in a lot of work to prepare the car and it ran flawlessly, so that was really rewarding. We approached this rally pretty similar to any other really, which is to make sure the car was in top shape and make sure the notes were spot on. We had to drive with our heads, as there were stages we were fast on and stages where we couldn’t compete with the others and I think we managed that well. I’m really happy with the result.”
For only the third time in the event’s 32 years, there were no 2WD cars in the top 10,
Justin Campbell and Ayrton Bannister winning the category and the Modified 3 class in his BMW M3. He said: “I think winning M3 was always achievable, but to get fastest 2WD overall is quite the achievement for me and it’s the closest feeling I think I could get to winning Sol Rally Barbados. It’s a position so many who build 2WD cars want and I’m really thankful that my name can join the list of names to win.”
After heading north from the Sol Speightstown start, Skeete won Saturday’s opening 6.8-kilometre Kure Pickering stage – Read was second, a hint of things to come – but running on the wrong compound Michelins cost him time early on. Stuart Maloney (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) was fastest on the first runs through Banks Dark Hole (5.60km) and Automotive Art Kendal, at 7.80km the weekend’s longest stage, to build up a seven-second lead by the end of the first loop, with Read third. The first Dark Hole had also accounted for five-time winner Jamaica’s Jeff Panton, with damage to the front-right corner of his Fiesta Rally2; he and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr opted to retire. With more suitable Pirelli rubber, Skeete fought back on the second runs, winning Pickering and Kendal, to narrow the gap to nine-tenths at lunch. But Stuart wasn’t the only Maloney on Skeete’s radar, as FIA Formula 3 racer Zane (Fabia R5) was easing up the order after a cautious start and won the second Dark Hole to move into third place.
Skeete retook the lead with a win on the final Pickering of the day, only to lose it again to Stuart Maloney, while nephew Zane won the final two stages to set up a classic day two contest: Stuart had 3.5secs on Skeete, while Zane cut a 20secs deficit to Skeete in half on the final loop, in part as Skeete was cautious on the final damp Kendal, run in the dark. Behind them, consistent top 10 times kept Read fourth ahead of a great tussle between two of Britain’s most ardent supporters of the event, Swann and Kevin Procter, swapping places stage by stage; the latter’s Fiesta S2000T was ahead at bedtime.
While hugely competitive, Saturday looked set to pale into insignificance with what was expected on Sunday, with Saturday’s three stages reversed in sequence and in direction. But the plot started to unravel early on, both Maloneys out within two stages: arriving downhill at the Kendal Duck Pond too hot, Zane managed the right-hander, but ran wide at the left, striking a power pole and removing the right rear wheel, although he got through the stage on the other three. Uncle Stuart also lost a wheel pushing too hard in the first Dark Hole stage, Skeete’s lead now suddenly boosted to 47secs, with Read and Procter (if he could shake off that pesky Swann) promoted to the podium places.
Fastest through the first Kendal Reverse, Skeete had already retaken the lead before Stuart Maloney was out and would not lose it for the rest of the day. Mightily impressive in his first rally in 4wd, Read was driving to his own plan, although Procter was steadily closing; having won his first island stage in Sol RB19, the Yorkshireman had looked set for his elusive first podium until the gearbox gave up. This year it looked more certain until a high-speed spin on the final Dark Hole stage, which Procter described as his “scariest moment in rallying”, dropped him back to finish fourth for the fourth time in his 15 visits, just ahead of the identical Fiesta S2000T of former rallycross front-runner and close chum Andy Scott, who Procter introduced to the island in 2017.
Read said: “We had a plan to have good pace and be sensible, as we are still learning and coming to grips with the car. I was still confident in a few of the stages I have driven before and I was able to maintain my pace to keep me in fourth by the end of Day 1. Dark Hole on Sunday was very challenging with the bumps. With the unfortunate incidents for Stuart and Zane, I moved up to second and kept my head level as Procter and Swann were both coming. I eventually got a good buffer heading into the last few stages and my result exceeds any expectations I would’ve had going into the event.”
The other British visitor who had looked set for a podium was Frank Bird. Third in his Fiesta Rally2 at KotH, he had been second after Saturday’s first two stages, but a spin on the first Kendal caused by a broken driveshaft dropped him to 17th. He fought back to ninth by bedtime, then won five of Sunday’s stages to move up to second but had earlier been OTL (over time limit) after breaking a wheel in the day’s first Dark Hole stage. An appeal to the Stewards failed yesterday, a major disappointment for the son of double Rally Barbados-winner Paul Bird on his first visit to compete.
Local crew Mark Thompson and Kurt Seabra had lost a near-certain third-place finish in Sol RB19 when the gearbox of their Modified 4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX let go three stages from home; while the podium was out of reach this year, a consistent weekend – they were outside the top 10 on only a handful of stages – earned them sixth place and class victory by a considerable margin.
Locals Roger Hill and Graham Gittens (Fabia R5) finished seventh, claiming a record 23rd top 10 finish, with father and son Mark and Justin Maloney eighth in a Fabia Rally2 evo, which arrived in the island just in time for KotH. Britain’s Tom Preston and Carl Williamson (Fiesta Rally2) finished ninth, the top 10 completed by Andrew Mallalieu and Geoff Goddard (Fiesta R5), fastest on the spectacular K&N/Denso Racing SuperSpecial which brought the event to a close under the floodlights at a packed Bushy Park.
The only recent winners of 2WD (10th overall in Sol RB20) in the entry, Andrew Jones and Lindsey Pilkington finished only one stage before an electrical gremlin hobbled their Ford Escort MkII, while a broken throttle linkage put Logan Watson and Andrew Croney (BMW M3) out of the running early, too. The leaders from stage two were Chris Ullyett and daughter Chantal in their Escort RS2000, running as high as 18th overall, before Campbell took a lead he would not lose at the start of Saturday’s third loop.
Second in 2WD, 15th overall, Edward Corbin and Johnathan Alleyne (Daihatsu Charmant) also won Modified 1, Corbin’s 10th class win since 2003, while Neil Corbin and Matthew Staffner won M1, third 2WD and 16th overall, despite some issues just a stage from home for their new Toyota GT6 CS-R3. Adrian Linton and son Dominic (Vauxhall Astra VXR) won SuperModified 2, 18th overall, while SM1 went to Darren Lashley (Toyota Starlet) in his first Sol RB, 40th overall with co-driver Jason Harewood, who had won the same class on his debut as a driver in Sol RB19.
Also in his first Sol RB as a driver, former co-driver for Roger Mayers (best result fourth overall in Sol RB16), Sean Corbin and Emily Kinch won Clubman 2 in their BimmaCup, 20th overall, while Greg Cozier/Natasha Farnum (BimmaCup Too) won C3, 21st overall. C1 was won by Jason Tull (Peugeot 106 Rallye S2), 43rd overall with first-time co-driver Omar Archer and Calvin Briggs with another Rookie co-driver Anderson Bannister (Ford Sierra) won Group B1.
After Harold Morley (Porsche 911) dropped out of the overall running, the Historic 2 class became an all-British affair, with some classy driving and great enthusiasm on display in a trio of MkII Escorts and a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. Chris Shooter and Bev LeGood claimed the win in one of the Escorts, 5.93secs ahead of Sean Kukula and Emma Arthur (Escort) with Robin Hamilton and Steve McNulty third in the Sunbeam. Dick Mauger and Liz Jordan, with more than a century of rallying experience between them, maintained Mauger’s 100 per cent finishing record in the island.
After dropping out of the overall running when he clipped the roadside on the second Saturday Kendall, Ben Hartling of the Turks & Caicos Rally Team went on to win the Sunday Cup, co-driven in his Fiesta R5 by multiple Irish and UK Champion Martin Brady. The only 4WD car in the list, they beat the BMW M3 of Watson and Croney by 44secs, with Derek Edwards and Damien Johnson in another M3 third.
Three more overseas crews were called to the stage last evening, two of them newcomers: Ian and Cameron Barclay (Evo VI) came second to Thompson and Seabra in Modified 4, while Group B2 winners Andrew Graham and Gavin Neate not only won the hearts and minds of island fans with their astonishing Land Rover but also the first-ever Spirit of the Rally Award, which was presented by CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) Dr Jens Thraenhart. He also handed Martin and Glenis Stockdale awards to mark his 20th visit to compete in the region’s biggest motor sport international.
There were some tribulations as well as trophies for overseas crews: England’s Simon Nutter and wife Fiona plunged off the second Kendal on Saturday into a gully, with serious damage to their Toyota Corolla and a broken ankle for the driver; Roger Duckworth rolled his recently-acquired Fiesta R5 with largely cosmetic damage, co-driver Mark Broomfield also rather sore, but they elected not to continue – up to then, Duckworth was very pleased with his first ever outing in the car, running in the top 10. (RB)