RALLY BARBADOS THE TIGHTEST YET?

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RALLY BARBADOS THE TIGHTEST YET?

Powell predicts "fierce competition" - Bourne agrees!

Last year's winners, Jamaicans Gary Gregg and Hugh Hutchinson, carry start number 1 for Rally Barbados 2007 this weekend (May 26/27). Their ex-Carlos Sainz Ford Focus World Rally Car will be flagged away from The Start at Simpson Motors at 9.00am on Saturday by the Minister of Tourism, the Hon Noel Lynch, to kick off possibly the most competitive contest in the 18-year history of the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) premier event . . . a fitting salute to the Club in its 50th Anniversary year.

With six ex-works World Rally Cars - the largest number ever assembled for one event in the Caribbean - and a host of top-calibre drivers, who have won more than 150 motor sport championships between them, there is quality and quantity aplenty. National Rally Champions from Britain, Holland, Jamaica and Trinidad will go head-to-head with the island's best, in an event not even the bravest pundit is attempting to second-guess.

Even though Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell is driving an ex-Didier Auriol Toyota Corolla WRC in which Henning Solberg won the European Rally Championship twice back-to-back, he is in no doubt about the challenge ahead: "This year the competition is going to be fierce - there are the two WRC cars from England, with Kevin Procter and Steve Perez, who have both been in Barbados before. Take that and add Roger Skeete to the equation with his new car, then Paul Bourne, Micey Manning, Gary Gregg, Jeff Panton and myself . . . then, on the outside you have other quick men like Barry Gale and Roger Hill, so you have one big battle for RB'07."

Powell's sentiments were echoed by 2003 winner Bourne, who will start at number 2 in his Subaru Impreza WRC: "With the drivers we have in this year's event, I can think of at least six that are capable of setting fastest stage times . . . and that means at least six who can win the rally, plus one or two more who might do so just through being consistent over the two days."

Final statistics countdown:
+ 81 entries
+ drivers from 12 nationalities - 33 drivers or co-drivers from Europe, 16 drivers or co-drivers from the Caribbean
+ 12 female co-drivers
+ 22 four-wheel-drive cars
+ 14 manufacturers - with 19, Toyota tops the list, ahead of Ford on 18

Daylight Screen at Canefield

Spectators at Canefield on Saturday will not be short of something to do between the six runs - three north and three south - through the popular 4.9-kilometre stage; thanks to support from Digicel, McEnearney Quality, Simpson Motors, SOL and Williams Equipment, Merville Lynch Productions will be keeping the action alive on the Lighthouse Daylight LED Screen, which has already been seen at a number of social and sporting events in recent weeks.

A spokesperson said: "The plan is that, when the stage is not running, the Daylight Screen will air rally DVDs from previous years, also some unedited footage of Saturday's action at other stages, Sailor Gully and Dark Hole, although this will depend on the ease with which tapes can be moved around."

Global tracking on the Internet

For those who cannot make it to RB'07, there's now a way of tracking the event and some of the key drivers involved from a computer screen at home or in the office: GeoOrbis has partnered with the BRC and Digicel to put live vehicle tracking units in 10 cars, also car zero and the sweeper car, just in case someone might want to leave home in time to reach the next stage.

The competitors being tracked - in seeding order - are 2006 winner Gary Gregg, Paul Bourne, Trevor Manning, John Powell, Roger Hill, Barry Gale, Jonathan Still, Sean Gill, Ian Warren and St Elmo Cumberbatch. Thanks to the remarkable technology, anyone who logs on will be tracking these cars live through the stages, with additional information such as speed and heading.

Rally Barbados chairman Barry Gale said: "We tried out the system last year on three vehicles and we were very happy with the results. This year, we have 12 units and are using them as not only an information tool for fans, but also to enable the Clerk of the Course keep a better track of the rally."

All interested persons have to do is log on to www.rallybarbados.bb, check the link at the bottom of the home page, which will lead them to easy-to-follow instructions on the GeoOrbis rally page; high-speed internet or ADSL is required.

Rally Barbados 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.

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

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