THE JAMAICANS ARE COMING!!

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THE JAMAICANS ARE COMING!!

Strong challenge from former winners Gregg and Panton

Jamaica's two previous winners of the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) blue riband event are returning this year for Rally Barbados . . . which might put a damper on the Club's 50th Anniversary celebrations. Last year's winner Gary Gregg and 1998 victor Jeffrey Panton are both keen to carry the trophy north up the island chain for a third time.

Confirmation of their challenge will help sharpen the efforts of local crews, eager to ensure everything is in place to keep the trophy at home when Rally Barbados runs off over the weekend of May 26/27. It is the second event of the seventh Barbados Rally Carnival, which also looks set to attract a strong European entry.

Gregg, who spent much of his youth in Barbados and therefore knows the stages well, has a strong record on the event; in addition to his victory with co-driver Hugh Hutchinson in the ex-Carlos Sainz 2001-spec Ford Focus WRC last year - becoming the first crew to achieve the Rally Barbados-Rally Jamaica double in the same year - they had finished third in the Focus in 2005.

The year before, they had a major accident on the uphill Canefield stage on Saturday morning, destroying the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI in which they had finished fourth in 2003. The multiple Jamaican champion recovered rapidly from his injuries, Gregg adapting quickly to his new Ford Focus, an impressive second-place finish in Rally Jamaica 2004 just five months later a clear sign of what was to come. He went on to win his home event in 2005 and 2006.

Panton's record of success in Barbados started earlier than Gregg's, in the days of the Texaco International All-Stage Rally - he finished second in a Toyota Celica GT4 in both 1994 (co-driven by Rene McDaniel) and 1996 (with Rudi Meikle on the notes). When he won in 1998, co-driven by John de Mercado, he was the spearhead of the most successful invasion in the event's 17-year history, with five Jamaican crews in the top 10; fourth place in 2000 with de Mercado is his most recent finish, after he failed to start the SuperSpecial in 2004, nullifying an overall placing.

For 2007, Panton is entered in his impressive home-built Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, in which he has proved blisteringly fast in his home country; co-driven by Justin Morin, he debuted the car on Rally Jamaica 2005, when gearbox failure forced their retirement (but not before an impressive and crowd-pleasing display at the Digicel New Kingston stages), while the crew finished sixth last year.

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The Barbados Rally Carnival comprises two events: the Red Bull International RallySprint (May 19) is the third and final round of the Vaucluse Raceway RallySprint Cup and a round of the BRC Driver's Championship. It is organised by the Vaucluse Raceway Motor Sport Club and sponsored by Red Bull.

Rally Barbados (May 26/27) is organised by the Barbados Rally Club; each day is a separate qualifying round of the Texaco BRC Rally Championship and the BRC Driver's Championship. Principal sponsors are Automotive Art, Banks Holdings Ltd, Dacosta Mannings Auto Centre, Digicel, McEnearney Quality, Simpson Motors, Texaco and Williams Industries. Associate sponsors are Armag, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Crane & Equipment, Essco, Harris Paints, Nassco and SOL.

Since its creation, the Barbados Rally Carnival has attracted nearly 160 overseas competitors, followed by more than 4,000 supporters over the years; while the majority of those visitors have been British, the list of nations represented also includes Austria, Finland, Holland, New Zealand and Turkey, joining the regional competition, particularly from Jamaica, St Vincent and Trinidad & Tobago. Each year, Rally Carnival injects around Bds $2 million into the island's economy, much of it in valuable foreign exchange.

Key dates for Barbados Rally Carnival 2007
Friday, May 18 - scrutineering for all competitors
- Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, Wildey
Saturday, May 19 - Red Bull International RallySprint
- Vaucluse Raceway, St Thomas
Thursday, May 24 - Rally Barbados 2007 shakedown
Saturday, May 26 - Rally Barbados 2007, day 1
Sunday, May 27 - Rally Barbados 2007, day 2
Monday, May 28 - Rally Barbados 2007 prize-giving
- The Boatyard

For further information, robin@bradfax.com - web site: rallybarbados.bb

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