Five former winners for Sol Rally Barbados

Ninety to start Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport event Five former winners are seeded in the top 10 for the Caribbean's biggest annual international motor sport event, Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 29-31); as the final running order was published Wednesday afternoon (May 27) by the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC), last-minute preparations were under way across the island for what promises to be the most competitive in the 20-year history of the event. A capacity entry of 90 cars is listed to start the two-day tarmac rally, including current and former Champions from the host island, the wider Caribbean and Europe. Following the Ceremonial Start at Simpson Motors on Friday evening - an innovation for 2009 - there are 24 stages run over a distance of a little under 80 miles. Saturday's route features 14 stages, including the event's signature - and longest - stage, Automotive Art Canefield, which alone attracts around 10,000 spectators, and 10 on Sunday, plus the Shell V-Power Super Special, which brings the event to a resounding climax at the island's circuit racing venue, Bushy Park. Last year's winners Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from Northern Ireland (Digicel/Red Bull/ARMAG Subaru Impreza WRC S9) will start at number one; their trip to the island has been generously allowed by Peugeot UK, in whose Kronos Racing-run S2000 Peugeot 207 they are currently leading the International Rally Challenge (IRC), fast replacing the World Rally Championship as the sport's most marketable high-end product. A clutch problem prevented Meeke reminding island fans of his skills at last Sunday's Shell V-Power King of the Hill, which was won by Roger 'The Sheriff' Skeete, who will therefore start at number two in his recently-acquired Michelin/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre/Warrens Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12, co-driven by Louis Venezia, winning co-driver in 2003 with Paul Bourne. Skeete has won the BRC's premier event 10 times since 1990, most recently in 2004. Bourne and Stuart Maloney (Banks/LIME/Virgin Atlantic Subaru Impreza WRC S9) will start at three, Bourne also the winner in 2007 and the strongest challenger last year to Meeke, until he rolled mid-way through Saturday morning. Roger Hill and Graham Gittens, winners of the recent Automotive Art Shakedown Stages, will start at four in the Esso/Nassco/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC in which Meeke won last year. After Meeke, England's Steve Perez is the highest-seeded international entry, co-driven in the Kick Energy Drink/VK Vodka Kick Ford Focus WRC05 by Welshman Paul Spooner; they start at five, with 1998 winner, Jamaica's Jeffrey Panton (Automotive Art/Bearings and Seals/Jamaica Freight and Shipping/Seaboard/Castrol/Active Traders/Automoto Ford Focus WRC) at six, with Mike Fennell Jnr. England's Kevin Procter and Dave Bellerby (Procters Coaches Subaru Impreza WRC S7) start at seven, ahead of the Chairman of the Sol RB09 organising committee Barry Gale - he is co-driven in the Autolink/VP Racing/Bella Beauty Supply/Pro Pac Dog Food Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI by the highest-seeded of the 12 female co-drvers, Cherie Edghill - 1999 winner Trevor Manning, now co-driven by Derek Edwards in the All Terrain Plus/Cellate Caribbean/Garbage Master/Bess Block Ford Escort WRC, and last year's runners-up, former UK National Champions Paul Bird and Ian Windress (SuperCasino.com/Vent Axia/VK Vodka Kick Ford Focus WRC07). Sol Rally Barbados 2009 final running order statistics: + 90 crews entered + drivers or co-drivers from eight nations, including Barbados + 26 four-wheel-drive cars, including nine ex-factory World Rally Cars + 38 drivers or co-drivers from Europe + nine drivers or co-drivers from around the region + 1 female driver, 12 female co-drivers + cars from 18 manufacturers, Toyota the best-represented with 19, followed by Mitsubishi (15), Ford (13) and Subaru (11) Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 29-31) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 24) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007; title sponsor is the Sol Group. Marketing partners are Automotive Art, Banks, Digicel, McEnearney Quality, Red Bull and Simpson Motors; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line, Stoute's Car Rental and Virgin Atlantic; associate sponsors are ARMAG, Caribbean Airlines, Crane & Equipments, Merville Lynch Productions, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels and Shelbury Construction. Remaining key events Friday, May 29 - 6.00pm to approx 9.00pm - The Ceremonial Start + Simpson Motors, Warrens, St Michael Saturday, May 30 - Sol Rally Barbados 2009 - day 1 + round five of the Virgin Atlantic BRC Driver's and Class Championships + start at 9.00am from SS1, Sailor Gully 1 + Simpson Motors is the service area for the day Sunday, May 31 - Sol Rally Barbados 2009 - day 2 + round six of the Virgin Atlantic BRC Driver's and Class Championships + restart at 7.30am from Bushy Park, St Philip, which is the service area for the day + Shell V-Power SuperSpecial and Rally Finish at Bushy Park Monday, June 1 - approx 3.30pm - Sol RB09 Prizegiving + The Boatyard, Bay Street, St Michael Media enquiries: e-mail - robin@bradfax.com web site - www.rallybarbados.bb