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Carnival jigsaw nearly complete

One of the final pieces of the jigsaw that is the sixth Barbados Rally Carnival fell into place yesterday (Wednesday, May 24), with the arrival at Grantley Adams International Airport of the most advanced and most successful World Rally Car ever to compete in the region, the ex-works Ford Focus WRC of Steve Perez.

The car was air-lifted in to Barbados in the same Virgin Atlantic 747-400 that carried the bulk of the European competitors, the first time in the history of Rally Carnival that air freight, rather than sea freight, has been used.

And one further piece of the puzzle will fall in place tomorrow afternoon, with the arrival of driver Perez and co-driver, Neil Dashfield, just in time for International Scrutineering, slated for 5.00pm at the Wildey premises of McEnearney Quality Inc. The now-traditional Friday evening presentation will include driver interviews, an official welcome of the overseas visitors and the chance for fans to mingle with competitors from home and abroad.

In addition to the overseas entries, the leading local cars will also be undergoing the necessary safety checks; among them will be some that have been eagerly-awaited by local fans - the return of Trevor Manning's Simpson Motors Rally Team Mitsubishi Evo VIII, the public debuts of his team-mate Sean Gill's new Suzuki Swift, Sammy Cumberbatch's new BMW M3 and the reborn Mazda of Nick Gill.

Chairman of the Rally Barbados organising committee Barry Gale said: "It is an indication of the importance with which Steve Perez views the events of Rally Carnival that he was willing to fly his car to our island, so as to limit the amount of time that he would be without it back home.

"He had been leading the MSA National Gravel Championship again this year until his accident in the Isle of Man, and is missing the next round, which clashes directly with Rally Barbados. I very much hope he enjoys himself here this year, and that he goes home with a result that makes all his and his team's efforts worthwhile."

Once scrutineering is done, Perez will have little time to acclimatise himself, as the first of the two Rally Carnival events falls on Saturday - the Red Bull International RallySprint is scheduled to start with qualifying at 10.00am and will be the first International event at the Vaucluse Raceway in St Thomas to be run into the night.

This is not the award-winning British businessman's first visit to the Barbados Rally Carnival, and he is hoping the competition side of this one will last longer than before; having been unable to arrive in time for the International RallySprint, he then slid off the road on the Saturday morning of Rally Barbados 2004 and damaged his ex-Hannu Mikkola Audi Quattro Sport beyond immediate repair. Some consolation for him that year was victory in the hotly-competitive ANCRO National Rally Championshp in the UK at the wheel of a 2003 Focus WRC, his second British title in as many seasons, having claimed the Armajaro Historic crown in 2003 in a Porsche 911.

His Rally Barbados 2006 campaign has been meticulously planned by BTR Preparations boss Tim Ashton and even the drama of an major accident just three weeks ago on the Manx National Rally has not derailed it. The VK Vodka Kick Focus was originally built by Ford works team M Sport in 2004, driven to victory by Markko Martin in Corsica and Catalunya in that year's World Championship, then upgraded to 2005 spec for last season.

Reigning Jamaican champion Gary Gregg also has an ex-works Focus, his from 2001 - now with a new engine from M Sport - while 2003 Trinidad Champion John Powell is armed with a second-generation Toyota Corolla WRC campaigned by former World Champion Didier Auriol.

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.

Remaining key dates for Barbados Rally Carnival 2006

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

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