Didier Auriol is guest of honour for Rally Barbados 2005

International recognition of Rally Barbados takes on a new dimension this week, with the arrival at Grantley Adams International Airport on tomorrow afternoon's (Thursday) Virgin Atlantic flight from London Gatwick of 1994 World Rally Champion Didier Auriol. The Frenchman is in the island as the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) guest of honour over the weekend of its premier event.

The second event in the annual Barbados Rally Carnival, RB'05 has attracted an entry of nearly 90 cars from Barbados, the wider Caribbean and Europe. Over the five years of the Rally Carnival, more than 150 overseas drivers have come to Barbados, bringing with them many thousands of supporters . . . but, never before a former World Rally Champion.

Auriol will flag off the highest-seeded runners at The Start at Simpson Motors from 9.00am on Saturday (May 28), then spectate over the weekend's 26 special stages, before presenting the major awards at the Official Prize-giving at The Boatyard on Monday.

BRC competition secretary and chairman of RB'05, Barry Gale, said: "We are delighted that Didier has agreed to travel here; it gives Rally Barbados a tremendous boost to know that someone of his standing is happy to give our event his endorsement, and is a credit to all those volunteers without whose help the Club would be unable to stage the event.

"His appearance here has come about as a result of John Powell's recent purchase of an ex-works Toyota Corolla WRC, in which Didier's then team-mate Carlos Sainz won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1998. Through his connections with former employees of Toyota Team Europe (TTE), 'Pentti' invited Didier to Barbados and he readily agreed.

"On behalf of the Barbados Rally Club, I would like to thank Virgin Atlantic, the Elegant Hotels Group and, particularly, Sue Springer of the BHTA, for their help in making this visit possible."

Auriol's World Rally Championship record is an impressive one; in 152 events, he finished on the podium 52 times - a remarkable one-in-three - winning 20 rallies between 1988 and 2001. His victories came in five different types of car, more than half in his days driving the Lancia Delta Integrale, including six wins in 1992, an unprecedented achievement in a single season.

After a collapse of the Lancia's challenge in the final three events of that year - Auriol eventually finished third in the standings - he had to wait until 1994 to win the title that most agreed was rightfully his two years earlier. He did so at the wheel of a Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD, in which he won three events, finished second twice and third once.

Auriol drove for TTE between 1993 and 1999, so has connections both with Powell's car, which the Jamaican has already driven in Barbados this year, and the older ex-TTE Celica GT4 of local Toyota dealer Roger Hill. In Sunday's International RallySprint at the Vaucluse Raceway, Hill set a superb personal best time of 2m 03.99s, the fourth-fastest time ever at the venue.

Rally Barbados 2005 is organised by the Barbados Rally Club in association with Automotive Art Shell, Banks Breweries, Cingular, Da Costa Mannings Autocentre, Digicel, DMS, McEnearney Quality, Simpson Motors, Texaco West Indies and Total Sport. The event is supported by Abacus Builders, The Boatyard, Nassco, SBI Distributors, Stoute's Car Rental and Williams Equipment.