BRITISH CREW CLAIMS UNIQUE CARIBBEAN DOUBLE

England’s Rob Swann and Welsh co-driver Darren Garrod wrote their names on the Caribbean motor sport roll of honour after Rally Jamaica last weekend (December 4/5). By repeating their victory in Group N of Sol Rally Barbados in May, they became the first crew to ‘do the double’ in the same year . . . and they have already signalled their intention to return to Barbados in 2011 to start defending the titles.

Third overall behind Jamaica’s Gary Gregg/Hugh Hutchinson (Ford Focus WRC) and Sean Gill/Michael Cummins – a stunning debut for the Barbados pair in the Suzuki SX4 WRC – also made them the most successful European crew in the modern-day Rally Jamaica; Kevin Procter and Mike Gilby finished fourth in a Subaru Impreza in 2005.

Swann’s achievement in the Revolution Wheels Subaru Impreza N14 is all the more remarkable in that this was the crew’s debut in what is universally regarded as the region’s toughest event; the two-day event is contested over 23 gravel stages, Saturday’s through rough terrain in the island’s bauxite mines, Sunday’s through fast and flowing stages in picturesque orange groves, which were this year followed by three short tarmac stages in the island’s capital, Kingston.

Swann said: “We had a great time, loved the stages and it was very competitive. Everyone made us very welcome and they run a pretty slick operation in terms of stages, marshals, time keeping and so on. We will try and return next year and maybe take some fellow competitors with us.”

Group N winner in Jamaica for the past two years, James Betts of Barbados, set the class pace on the opening stage in his older Impreza N9, with Swann second and Jamaica’s Joel Jackson third. Driving an Impreza of similar vintage of Betts, Jackson took the class lead by winning the second stage, with Swann again second, while Betts lost around 50 seconds when the engine cut out.

On stage three, Jackson ploughed straight on at a tricky left-hand turn, losing 15 minutes and any chance of a class victory; between then and the end of the first day, Swann recorded a further six stages wins – Betts claimed the other three – to lead Group N by 44 seconds overnight.

Swann won a further nine stages on Sunday – second overall once, to Gill, and ahead of eventual winner Gregg - to maintain his advantage until the event hit Downtown Kingston; while he was only third on both the short timed SuperSpecial stages, he lost little time to Betts and Jackson and won Group N by nearly 90 seconds.

While Swann is the first driver to claim the Group N double in the same year, Neil Armstrong of Barbados and Steve Ollivierre of St Vincent and the Grenadines have also won the class in both events, but not in the same year, having swapped titles back and forth in 2006 & ‘07.

 

International mix developing well for Sol Rally Barbados 2011

As the entry list for Sol Rally Barbados steadily grows, the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC) reports that the international mix of competitors it has worked hard to develop for the Caribbean’s biggest annual international motor sport event looks set to continue into 2011.

Rally Chairman Barry Gale notes: “Among the 20 or so on-line entries received so far, nearly half are from overseas, including three crews from the British Isles who will be competing for the first time. What is really exciting is that our push for overseas two-wheel-drive cars is already working – two of the first-timers are bringing Ford Escorts that I know are going to please our fans, and I’m receiving enquiries from other newcomers on a regular basis.

“Bearing in mind that everyone is pretty challenged by the current economic climate, I have to say, as I did last year, we must be doing something right for Sol Rally Barbados to continue to attract this level of interest.”

Sol Rally Barbados (June 4/5, 2011) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 29) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB2011 is the 22nd running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the start of a second three-year term of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.

For further media information: e-mail - robin@bradfax.com

web site: www.rallybarbados.bb