PANTON READY FOR “AMAZING” SOL RALLY BARBADOS


 

T&T’s Pinheiro and UK newcomer Phelps boost 4wd entry

Four-time winner of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event, Jamaica’s Jeff Panton today (April 12) confirmed his participation in Sol Rally Barbados 2018, after a successful return to island competition last weekend. The Club’s 2017 Champion Driver is looking forward to “another amazing Rally Barbados” and taking on whatever the opposition can offer, following his hat-trick of victories since 2015.

  Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill (KotH) the previous weekend, May 26/27. With the entry closing date just two weeks away, more than 70 crews are now shown in the on-line entry list on the official web site, rallybarbados.net. Rally Trinidad 2018 winner Ryan Pinheiro is also confirmed today, along with UK newcomer Geoff Phelps, boosting the 4wd entry to 22.

  Panton and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr won in both directions at last Sunday’s (April 8) Motoring Club of Barbados Inc Full Throttle 18 in the north of the island in the Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06. Having missed the MCBI’s season-opener three weeks ago, waiting on parts for the Focus, Panton said: “We used the speed event on Sunday to shake down the car and it felt great, with no issues.”

  Thirteen times the winner of the island’s premier event, Roger Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B) will not be Panton’s only threat, with the return after a two-year absence of former UK National Rally Champion Paul Bird (Focus WRC08), who won in 2012 & ’13. Those three are the only winners of Sol RB since 2009, when Kris Meeke, now with five WRC wins to his name, claimed his second victory. Panton said: “I always look forward to racing against Paul. Win, lose or draw, it makes for a highly competitive rally. We are looking forward to another amazing Rally Barbados and we will do our best.”

  The first regional winner of the former International All-Stage Rally - in 1998, with John de Mercado in a Toyota Celica GT4 – Panton has built a reputation as the region’s most successful driver; twice the Caribbean Rally Champion (1996 & ’98), Panton is unique in having won regional rallying’s ‘Big Three’ - tarmac in Barbados (1998, 2015-‘17), gravel in Jamaica (nine times between 1994 and 2015) and Trinidad & Tobago (2011 & ‘13) - and also finished on the podium in all three for two straight seasons (2012 & ‘13).

T&T’s Pinheiro and UK newcomer Phelps boost 4wd entry

Winner of Rally Trinidad 2018, Ryan Pinheiro has committed to campaigning his Gulf Oil/Track Batteries/Mayfield Drapery Works Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V in Sol RB18, despite a broken gearbox causing him to retire last year . . . but a promise is a promise! The 2016 Trinidad & Tobago Rally Club (TTRC) Group A Champion says: “I promised my son Scott that, if we won Rally Trinidad, we would take the Evo back to Barbados this year and I would let him navigate. So, here we are once more competing in what I can only describe as the best rally we have ever attended.”

  Seventeen-year-old Scott is Pinheiro’s middle son of three, elder brother Shane studying in the United States, younger brother Adam has always played his part in the family motor sport team, while mother Karen is an accomplished event photographer. Father says: “Unlike Shane, who raced karts, Scott has always been more of a footballer than racer, but he has always been a member of my crew and, after Shane navigated for me once, Scott stepped in to the seat. I was surprised how quickly he took to the job, his timing for the note delivery was on point and we meshed straight away.”

  Pinheiro first competed in Autocross in 2001, winning multiple titles, before taking a break, returning with an Evo IV in gravel rallies, finishing fifth in the 2014 TTRC Championship and Rookie of the Year; while 2015 was disappointing, he was on the podium for all but one event in 2016, second overall and Group A Champion.

  Before he entered last year, Sol RB had been on Pinheiro’s ‘bucket list’ as a regular visitor, initially as a spectator then as part of fellow countryman David Coelho’s service crew. The DNF has not deterred him: “The gearbox problem was the result of damage by a broken cv joint. Now we have four new joints and are better prepared, having done the event and knowing what to expect. Our aim is to finish and have a good time.”

  Newcomer Geoff Phelps is a poultry farmer from Gloucestershire, where his business producing 2.5 million birds a year restricts his rallying to just a few events, mainly in the forests of Wales; having rallied many cars, including a rwd Ford Focus and a Skoda Fabia with Mitsubishi running gear, Phelps has often competed against his brother Tim’s Ford Escort MkII, so bought a similar car from Dave Jenkins, who will also compete in Sol RB18 in the Weir Rallying UK MkII.

  Another newcomer attracted to Barbados thanks to British ‘word-of-mouth’, Phelps explains: “I was admiring the new car in Dave’s workshop and discussing the Sol Rally and he said I should bring mine along for the crack, so I signed up! Thing is, my Escort is a gravel car, and I really enjoy the Pirelli Rally in Kielder. I was fourth in class last year and I’m doing it again this year, but it is too close to the shipping date, so I will be driving a newly-acquired Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, a specialist tarmac car.”

  Experienced Welsh co-driver Elwyn Manuel will sit with Phelps; a part-time instructor at the Phil Price Rally school in Wales, Manuel has been a co-driver for more than 40 years, most recently with Phelps’s brother, as the driver explains: “Elwyn usually navigates for Tim, but as he has kindly agreed to lend me Elwyn’s services, I have kindly agreed for Tim to bring his spanners along and service!”

 

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB18 marks the 11th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the third by communications provider Flow.