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Overseas National Champions target Bajan crews

Four ex-factory World Rally Cars – two Fords, a Subaru and a Toyota - head the entry list for Rally Barbados 2006 issued today (May 12) by the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC); and, with current or former National Champions arriving from Britain, Jamaica and Trinidad, the challenge for local crews will be among the strongest in the 17-year history of the event.

Rally Barbados (June 3/4) is the second of two International events in the sixth Barbados Rally Carnival; each day is a separate round of the Texaco BRC Rally Championship and the Virgin Atlantic BRC Driver’s Championship. Barbados Rally Carnival’s first event is the Red Bull International RallySprint at the Vaucluse Raceway in St Thomas on Saturday, May 27.

Seeded at number one for RB’06, in the absence of last year’s winner Roger Mayers, is the Warrens Motors Subaru Impreza WRC of Bajan crew Paul Bourne and Louis Venezia, winners in 2003; although this car is older than those coming from overseas, it certainly still has pace – in Rally Barbados last year, after missing a couple of stages on Saturday, the Impreza was fastest over Sunday’s stages by more than 10 seconds.

But Bourne may need to look over his shoulder from early, with Jamaicans Gary Gregg and John Powell, plus Britain’s Steve Perez breathing down his neck; 2003 Trinidad Champion Powell and last year’s Jamaican Champion Gregg finished second and third respectively in RB’05, Powell in his 1998 Toyota Corolla WRC and Gregg in a 2001-spec Ford Focus WRC, both formerly driven on World Championship events by Spain’s Carlos Sainz. Powell is now armed with a second-generation Corolla campaigned by former World Champion Didier Auriol, while Gregg has a new engine from Ford works team M Sport in his Focus.

But it is Perez who links Rally Barbados most closely with the World Rally Championship – his car, originally built in 2004, was driven to victory in Corsica and Catalunya that year in the hands of Markko Martin, then upgraded to 2005 spec for last season, during which Roman Kresta and Henning Solberg each claimed a pair of top 10 finishes. This year, 2004 ANCRO National Champion Perez himself competed on Rallye Catalunya, his first World Championship event outside the UK, and finished a creditable 23rd.

In releasing the entry list, Rally Chairman Barry Gale said: “Once again, we have raised the bar in terms of quality for Rally Barbados, although we are a handful down in terms of numbers from last year’s total of 80 starters. We have a world-class entry again and the machinery is the most sophisticated we have ever seen here; Steve Perez is bringing his 2005-spec Ford Focus WRC in a serious effort to carry the trophy back to Europe for the first time since Kenny McKinstry won 10 years ago. This is the most recent ex-factory car ever to come to the region and it speaks to the growing regard in which the event is held that Steve is having his car flown in from the UK for our event, rather than the slower option of shipping, so that he causes the minimum disruption to his efforts to regain his National Championship crown back home.

“Last year, John Powell and Gary Gregg finished second and third, so they should again be right on the pace, former winner Jeffrey Panton’s back from Jamaica with a quick new Mitsubishi and then there’s England’s Kevin Procter with his trusty Subaru so, all in all, I think we’ll have a hard-fought event . . . and I for one am not in the business of making predictions.”

Although the overseas entry is somewhat lower than in recent years, there is nevertheless a good spread across the various Groups, with an opportunity for most Bajan crews to pit themselves against some overseas opposition.

The headline facts about the entry list for Rally Barbados 2006:
+ there are 73 entries, including 17 four-wheel-drive cars
+ competitors come from seven countries, including host nation Barbados, with 34 overseas drivers or co-drivers on the list
+ seven co-drivers will be competing for the award presented to the highest-placed crew including a female
+ more than 43 different models from 15 manufacturers are listed
+ numerically, Toyota is the strongest marque, with 17 cars, while Ford is also in double figures, at 12 entries

Key dates for Barbados Rally Carnival 2006
Saturday, May 20 – scrutineering for local entries, McEnearney Quality, Wildey
Friday, May 26 – scrutineering for overseas entries, McEnearney Quality
Saturday, May 27 – Red Bull International RallySprint, Vaucluse Raceway, St Thomas
Thursday, June 1 – Rally Barbados 2006 shakedown
Saturday, June 3 – Rally Barbados 2006, day 1
Sunday, June 4 – Rally Barbados 2006, day 2
Monday, June 5 – Rally Barbados 2006 prize-giving, The Boatyard

For further information:
e-mail - robin@bradfax.com
web sites - www.rallybarbados.bb; www.barbadosrallycarnival.com

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