Former UK Champions Perez and Bird face off in Sol Rally Barbados 2008

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Former UK Champions Perez and Bird face off in Sol Rally Barbados 2008

BRITISH CHAMPIONS RENEW RIVALRY IN BARBADOS

Capacity entry for Sol Rally Barbados?

 

An intense, though friendly, rivalry that has enhanced many a round of Britain's National Rally Championship since 2004 is about to be revived, when former National Champions Steve Perez and Paul Bird face off against one another - and the rest of the record-breaking Modified 8-WRC class - in Sol Rally Barbados 2008 (May 31/June 1).

 

Close friends out of the driving seat, everything changes once they get behind the wheel: beating the other becomes as important as the overall result . . . and the loser will find himself faced with a sizeable bar bill at the post-rally celebrations! They have not competed against one another since last year: Perez only recently returned to action, four months after being airlifted to hospital with injuries sustained during last November's East African Safari Classic, while Bird has been concentrating on developing his new World Superbike team.

 

Perez will be contesting Rally Barbados for the fourth time, but it will be Bird's first attempt, although he has enjoyed holidays in the island in the past. Perez will drive the ex-Markko Martin Ford Focus World Rally Car in which he has finished fourth for the past two years, with former British Champion co-driver Howard Davies returning for a second visit. Bird will campaign the Subaru Impreza WRC in which he finished second in the popular Malcolm Wilson Rally in northern England in March, an event he has won three times in the recent past; alongside him will be Ian Windress, his co-driver when he won the National Championship in 2005 (the year after Perez) in a Stobart-backed ex-works Ford Focus WRC, supplied by near-neighbour Malcolm Wilson of M-Sport.

 

Before he tried his hand at rallying, Bird had enjoyed considerable success on two wheels; having first raced in motocross at the age of 12, he had won more than 10 Championships by the age of 30 - among them a hat-trick of Irish Supermoto titles - and raced on the World Motocross GP circuit.

 

More recently, his success has come as a team owner in the British Superbike Championship (BSB), which his Monstermob Ducati outfit won in 2002 and 2003 with the late Steve Hislop and Shane Byrne; after a couple of disappointing seasons in Britain, Bird is now running 2005 BSB champion Gregorio Lavilla in the World Superbike Championship on the latest-spec Honda Fireblade, sponsored by Vent Axia and VK, one of the best-known trade names from Perez's company Global Brands.

 

For Perez, whose National Championship success came the year after he had won the British Historic Rally Championship in a Porsche 911, there is still unfinished business in Barbados. He looked set for his first podium finish last year, until a dramatic and costly spin at Kendal on the Sunday, although fourth place still netted him the award for highest-placed European crew.

 

Fully recovered from his Safari injuries, he returned to rallying in March, winning his comeback event, the North Humberside Forest Rally, for the second year in a row. Since his first visit in 2004, when he retired in his ex-Hannu Mikkola Audi Quattro Sport, Perez has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Barbados Rally Club's premier event, and he has been instrumental in the participation in this year's Sol Rally Barbados of 1979 World Champion Bjorn Waldegard, who will drive a Porsche 911 from the Perez stable.

 

While he will certainly enjoy seeing his car put through its paces by one of the most respected names in the business, the competition in Modified 8-WRC will put him through his own paces! Already confirmed is former Junior WRC front-runner Kris Meeke, who will campaign the Toyota Corolla WRC in which Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell finished second last year and, as entries closed last Friday, a record-breaking number of M8-WRC cars were listed.

 

At the start of the week, Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Barry Gale said: "We are currently working through the final checks on each entry; we extended our deadline to Wednesday (May 7) for each form to be signed by both driver and co-driver, and all details completed, and made it clear that any incomplete or unpaid entries will be considered as stand-by entries, and will only be eligible, on completion of the form, provided that there is space remaining. I have received 84 entries, and it is highly likely that we will be fully subscribed for the first time since 2003. "As things stand, we have more than 10 cars listed for M8-WRC, and nearly one-third of the entry looks set to be four-wheel-drive cars. Anyone in those classes - including me - is going to have his work cut out come rally weekend." The provisional entry list will be published on Monday (May 12).

 

Programme of key events

 

Friday, May 23 - 4.00pm to approx 8.00pm

Scrutineering at Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, Wildey, St Michael

Saturday, May 24 - 11.30am to approx 6.00pm

Shell V-Power King of the Hill, Turner's Hall, St Andrew

Monday to Friday, May 26 to May 30 - 4.00 to 6.00pm each day

Meet the Drivers at Shell Warrens, St Michael (Mon-Weds) and Shell Banyans (Thurs-Fri)

Saturday, May 31 - Sol Rally Barbados 2008 - day 1

Start from Simpson Motors, Warrens, St Michael, at 9.30am

Twelve stages at three venues

Sunday, June 1 - Sol Rally Barbados 2008 - day 2

Restart from Bushy Park, St Philip, at 7.30am

Twelve stages at three venues

Shell V-Power SuperSpecial at Bushy Park

Monday, June 2 - approx 3.30pm - Sol Rally Barbados 2008 Prizegiving

The Boatyard, Bay Street, St Michael

 

  Sol Rally Barbados and Shell V-Power King of the Hill are elements of the eighth Barbados Rally Carnival. Each day of Sol Rally Barbados, organised by the Barbados Rally Club, is a separate qualifying round of the BRC Rally Championship. The title sponsor is Sol and associate sponsors and marketing partners are McEnearney Quality, Simpson Motors, Automotive Art, Banks Holdings, DaCosta Mannings Auto Centre, Digicel, Nassco, Consolidated Finance, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Crane & Equipments, Little Switzerland, Armag, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and the Barbados Tourism Authority.

 

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