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Rally Club's 50th Anniversary marked by toughest-ever event

After two days of intense competition (May 26/27), during which the overall lead of Rally Barbados changed hands no fewer than seven times, Paul 'Surfer' Bourne claimed his second win in the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) blue riband event by a margin of less than two seconds.

With co-driver Stuart Maloney in the BF Goodrich/Plus-backed Subaru Impreza WRC, Bourne claimed only 10 fastest times of the 21 stages run, but his consistent pace throughout the weekend was what counted; his victory came despite a 10-second penalty for clocking in early for one Saturday stage.

Bourne and Maloney received their trophies at Monday's Prizegiving at The Boatyard from former Citroen works Junior WRC driver Kris Meeke and executive director of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association Sue Springer. Meeke said: "I am just amazed by the crowds that turn out to watch rallying here, and the hospitality has been fantastic."

In the toughest contest of the event's 18-year history - a fitting outcome in the BRC's 50th Anniversary year - four different drivers led the event, and all six of those in control of ex-works WRC machinery set fastest stage times, two drivers each from Barbados, Jamaica and Europe, the very essence of the annual Barbados Rally Carnival.

Despite some intermittent gearbox problems, Jamaicans John 'Pentti' Powell and Michael March (Stag/Intercontinental Shipping Toyota Corolla WRC) finished second, as they did to Roger Mayers (Ford Focus WRC) in 2005; 'Pentti' clocked three fastest stage times and led overnight, but Bourne just chipped away.

With three fastest times in the bag, last year's winners, Powell's fellow-countrymen Gary Gregg and Hugh Hutchinson (McEnearney Quality/NG Racing Ford Focus WRC) had looked set for a repeat, until a moment on Saturday's final stage and some damage beneath the car dropped them down the order; efforts to repair the Focus for a full attack on Sunday were not successful.

Roger Skeete and Ian Griffith in 'The Sheriff's new Havoline/Michelin/FB Batteries Ford Escort WRC were in contention from early, two fastest times helping them to third overnight; a podium finish looked unlikely, however, after a dramatic spin on the second Malvern, which cost Skeete more than 30 seconds compared with his previous time through that stage and dropped him back to fifth, behind Steve Perez and Kevin Procter.

With the experienced Howard Davies on the notes, and spurred on by making it into the top three, Perez then set a couple of fastest stage times in the Vodka Kick Ford Focus WRC, but an equally dramatic spin on the first uphill Kendal cost him 20 seconds and returned the favour, leaving Skeete to finish third.

Perez and Davies claimed the trophies as highest-placed European crew - Perez said at the Prizegiving that he'll be back next year - while Procter and local co-driver Stewart Gill finished fifth in the Procter's Coaches/ITC-backed Hyundai Accent WRC, fastest on the first Malvern.

The top six was completed by the only other Jamaican crew to feature in the overall results, 1998 winner Jeffrey Panton and co-driver Justin Morin, in the Air Jamaica/Miami Freight & Shipping Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. A puncture early Saturday dropped him to 15th, but Panton's press-on driving style dragged him back up the order by the close.

Not so fortunate was Trevor Manning, co-driven in the Shell V-Power/Simpson Motors/Garbage Master Evo VIII by James Betts; 'Electric Micey' had been greatly encouraged by the performance of the car this year, and his optimism seemed well-founded - second on each of the first three stages to Gregg, Bourne and Powell, he was leading Rally Barbados by nearly three seconds, when another turbo failure in the second Canefield brought his rally to a stop.

Manning's team-mate Sean Gill flew the flag for Simpson Motors in fine style, however; with 'Zippy' Cummins alongside him in the First Caribbean VISA/Shell V-Power/Automotive Art Suzuki Swift, he was fastest in SuperModified 10 on every stage, also fastest two-wheel-drive, to finish seventh overall.

His times and fastest speeds - 177kmph uphill at Canfield, for instance - were often precisely matched by the Red Bull/Hitachi Power Tools BMW M3 of Jonathan Still/Heath Hazell, who finished eighth overall, winners of S11.

Despite an engine that persisted in cutting out during Saturday morning, a delighted Neil Armstrong finished ninth, winning Group N with Barry Ward in the Shell Helix/Hankook/Solider Seal Gunk Evo VI, an exact repeat of their result of Rally Jamaica last December . . . right down to start number 17!

For the second year in a row, Barry Gale/Ryan Rodriguez finished 10th in the Simpson Motors/Dentyne Ice/VP Racing Evo VI; they also claimed victory in Group M8-A, despite an alarming trip into the undergrowth on the first stage of the day, when the steering wheel came loose. Fortunately for Gale, everyone else in the Group had problems of their own - the legendary reliability of Roger Hill's Toyota Celica GT4 took one of its rare downturns, with gearbox problems, Kirk Watkins struck the bridge of the first Canefield damaging the rims and suspension of his Evo V in the process, while British visitor Andrew Johnson rolled his Subaru Impreza on the same stage, losing a lot of time.

Gale's 10th place, secured just a few stages from the finish, came at the expense of M6 winners Ian Warren/Matthew Staffner, whose giant-killing acts in the MQI/Subzero/Details Car Valet Peugeot 206 had included a faster top speed through Dark Hole on Saturday morning than two WRC cars, Gill and Still!

A determined drive resulted in a second M7 victory for Rally Carnival founder Greg Cozier and Antonio Da Silva (Citgo/Hyundai Industrial & Commercial Ford Escort RS2000), while five-times Carnival visitor, Scotland's Kenny Hall, celebrated his 50th birthday with a second M5 win, co-driven by Holland's Fenny Wesselink in the Car Parts 4u/Simpson Motors Vauxhall Corsa; his co-driver was also highest-placed female competitor.

Two other Groups were won by overseas competitors: after Northern Ireland's John Hardman crashed his Ford Fiesta, England's Andrew Costin-Hurley was the sole survivor in Group B, co-driven by Michael Carrington in the Ford Puma and, while they were not classified as overall finishers, Jamaica's Tarik Minot and Peter Clarke won S9 in the Minott Motorsport Suzuki Ignis.

In the only small-capacity production Group, Neil Barnard achieved a fifth Group win on the event, claiming P2 honours with Kevin Massiah co-driving the First Caribbean VISA/Shell V-Power/Automotive Art Suzuki Ignis Sport.

Nicholas Gill and Sue Rogers in the Castrol/MQI Mazda 3 won every stage to lift the Texaco Sunday Cup trophies, with Britain's Dave Bellerby and Kev Franks (Procters Coaches Ford Sapphire) won the battle for second place, after swapping times all day with the Evo V of Watkins and Max Ferri.

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

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