Rallies around the world could learn some lessons from key elements of Sol Rally Barbados, according to Sue Sanders, International Training Programme Manager of the Motor Sports Association (MSA), Britain’s governing body. Invited by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) to observe this year’s 24th running of the Club’s blue riband event, Sanders has recently delivered a detailed evaluation, the first of its type carried out in the region.
In her summary, Sanders wrote: “The event is a credit to the Barbados Rally Club. I can honestly say it is of a high standard and many UK and other National events I have attended around the world can learn something from your welcoming approach and your genuine desire for people to enjoy both the sport, and Barbados.”
Already familiar with the island, having assisted in a Senior Official Training Programme run by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) in January, Sanders is a former Stage Commander and Safety Officer of Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), and works on safety and training around the world. She based her assessment of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International on the standard format of Observers Report used by the MSA, for example when evaluating an event which is seeking Championship status for the first time.
There are five main headings: 1 - Standard Documentation, ranging from road book through time cards to Safety Plan; 2 - Start and Finish; 3 - Safety, including Safety Cars, Emergency Vehicles, Manpower and safety for both competitor and spectator; 4 - Itinerary and Infrastructure, dealing not only with special stages, but also road sections, service facilities, parc ferme, scrutineering and reconnaissance; 5 - Organisation.
A total of 190 specific questions are listed, with five levels of evaluation – Level 3 is the expected or desired standard, with two levels above and below, ranging from extremely high to totally unacceptable. The final section, Organisation, is the longest, representing just over one-third of the report, covering everything from pre-event promotion, the arrangements for import of cars and equipment, Rally HQ, communications, timekeeping and results to the competence, experience and performance of the senior officials.
In parallel with Sanders, experienced British Eligibility Scrutineer Geoff Doe worked with the local scrutineers, focusing particularly on WRC and Group N cars.
BRC Chairman Mark Hamilton said: “Sue travelled with a number of our senior officials to critique the event, and seek areas where we could improve. Bearing in mind that the Club has no full-time staff, I am proud of what we have achieved and I am pleased that many of her comments are so positive about the way we do things here – it looks as though we got about eight or nine out of 10.
“Geoff was more hands-on, and made some valuable suggestions, too. Having two people with so much experience worldwide take a good look at Sol Rally Barbados has been really valuable. We have always listened to comments from our overseas visitors, but no-one has taken such a close look at every component of the organisation before. We now understand better a number of ways in which we can make move ahead.
“Sue and Geoff have both worked around the world helping events grow in stature. They are not trying to impose WRC-style requirements on us, simply working with us to help us make the best of our local resources . . . and I thank them for their input.”
Among elements of the event which came in for particular praise were: emergency vehicles and manpower - “Excellent locations throughout the stages, very professional and enthusiastic team members”; lengths of special stages – “Considering the difficulty in achieving closed roads while minimising disruption to local communities, the stage lengths were very good”; general organisation - “The rally pre-event was very well managed, especially the transport of vehicles for overseas competitors”; volunteers – “Marshals identification was excellent, I especially liked the safety notice on the back of their T-shirts”.
Of the finish outside Bushy Park, Sanders wrote: “This was an excellent finish with good atmosphere, commentary and food stalls and the drivers joined in the ‘party’ atmosphere to add to the crowd’s excitement. Many International events could learn from the style and openness of this type of finish.”
Areas identified where improvements or changes could be made included some communications issues, the absence of a permanent ‘Rally Office’ with an ‘Official Noticeboard’ and the lack of printed bulletins readily available over the weekend, in addition to those on-line: “Although the virtual notice board is good, it doesn’t help anyone during the event, and is also not helpful for many overseas competitors who cannot print documents from an hotel room.”
Planning for Sol Rally Barbados 2014 is already under way, with the dates and the opening of on-line entries due to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Sol Rally Barbados and Scotiabank King of the Hill are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007; title sponsors are the Sol Group and Scotiabank. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, LIME, Automotive Art, Banks and Karcher; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Tourism Development Corporation, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Chefette, Field Insurance, Glacial Pure, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels, Stoute’s Car Rental and West Indies Rum Distillery.
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