CREWS WELCOME SOL RALLY BARBADOS NIGHT STAGES

Hill describes route as “best to date”

The return of night stages to Sol Rally Barbados – two loops in the north of the island will bring Saturday’s action to a close – have attracted positive feedback from competitors seeking a fresh challenge. With a new location for Friday’s Ceremonial Start and opening stage among other changes to the route, Sol RB18 next weekend (June 1-3) promises a weekend of thrills for competitors and spectators alike.

  For the first time, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event will start on the RallySprint track at the Vaucluse Raceway in St Thomas (June 1, at 5.50pm), with cars running in reverse order of seeding, side-by-side in pairs; each crew will be interviewed on the Ceremonial Start ramp to the south of the start-line, before moving forward to tackle two laps of the RallySprint track.

 Saturday’s four night-time stages follow the dinner halt, two runs each of Sailor Gully heading north, then Pickerings, scheduled to start at 6.35pm; the two venues are close together, so should run quickly, allowing a reasonably early night for crews, despite the number of Saturday stages rising to 13 for the first time since 2011.

  Among those impressed with the changes is Roger Hill, who will be targeting a 20th top 10 finish in the island’s premier event, along with WRC-2 class honours, in his Toyota Corolla WRC. After completing his first round of pace-noting with co-driver Graham Gittens, Hill said: “Having now driven all the routes, I think this Rally Barbados layout is the best to date, a great effort by the organisers. The overall choice of stages throughout the three days has been well thought out, including the transits.”

  Of the night stages, Hill said: “They are two good venues, especially Fairfield to Pickering. Increasing the number of stages from two to four will be a bit more demanding for the more experienced drivers like me, if I can put it that way, but overall it will be an excellent end to day two.”

  Writing from the departure lounge at London Gatwick this morning (Wednesday), where he was waiting to board his Barbados flight with Subaru Impreza WRC S12B co-driver Darren Garrod, Rob Swann said: “I do like night stages, just as long as they don’t finish too late for all the services crew and support personnel.”

  Among the potential front-runners in the battle for 2wd honours, Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta) said: “It is nice to see some changes, as I think you need to experience every type of road possible and these will help shake things up. It will be a long rally, especially with running longer into Saturday night, so I’m trying my hardest to work on my fitness to be able to handle this.” His brother Roger (Toyota WR Starlet) added: “I really like the stages chosen for this year’s rally, especially Haggatts to Springvale on Saturday,” a sentiment echoed by Rhett Watson (BMW M3): “I’m a big fan of night stages, I like the changes to the route, it’s different and presents a new challenge.”

    Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) added: “Regarding the change of route, I'm really disappointed we aren't using that same stage in the north for the start on Friday night as we did last year; that stage was epic . . . although I do understand why they have opted not to use it again. As for the rest of the stages, I'm a little wary as all of them have some rough sections and we know that the Peugeot has a tendency to shed some parts on the rougher stages.”

Sol Rally Barbados briefs:

• subject to any last-minute dramas, Andy Scott will be the only driver entered for Sol RB18 who will not take part in Flow King of the Hill on Sunday (May 27). The Scotsman’s Albatec Racing outfit will be fielding a pair of Peugeot 208 RX Supercars at Silverstone, over the weekend: Mark Higgins will make his debut in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, which visits the home of the British GP for the first time, while Scott will contest the opening round of the new Americas Rallycross Championship . . .

• there will also be two co-drivers at Flow KotH, who will not compete in Sol RB18: Scotland’s Vanessa Hamilton will sit with husband Robin in their MG Metro 6R4, while Steve McNulty will be on the maps the following weekend; Stan Graham, who has competed in the island before with Steve Finch, will join Dick Mauger on Sunday in his Ford Escort MkII, while Graham’s partner Liz Jordan will make her Sol RB debut • since Kiwi rallying legend Mike Marshall first competed in the island in 2015, family members and friends have returned each year, but this time round his son Craig has set a new record for endurance. . . and commitment to Sol Rally Barbados. In seeking to save a few hundred dollars on flights, Marshall left Auckland in New Zealand on Monday morning local time to fly via Sydney to Hong Kong, in to London Heathrow, then out of London Gatwick and on to Barbados. He arrives in Barbados around 10 minutes after the rest of his family, but will have taken around twice as long to reach the Caribbean: of his approximate total travel time of around 50 hours, he will have spent more than 35 hours in the air and travelled something over 16,100 miles . . .

 

Sol Rally Barbados (June 1-3) and Flow King of the Hill (May 27) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Title sponsors: The Sol Group and Flow. Major partners: Automotive Art, Banks, Chefette, Simpson Motors, Toyo Tires. Partners: Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Geest Line, Tourism Development Corporation. Associate sponsor: Stoute’s Car Rental