Sol Rally Barbados 2009 Promotion under way

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Sol Rally Barbados 2009 Promotion under way

For the 20th running of its blue riband event, the Club is offering free shipping and free entry to the highest-placed Jamaican crews in both the four-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive categories the Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club's (JMMC) event. 

Chairman of the Sol RB09 executive committee, Barry Gale, twice a top 10 finisher in Jamaica himself, will be making the trip this year as a spectator.He notes: "It will be an excellent marketing exercise for us and gives us an ideal opportunity to help foster the friendly rivalry between our two islands; our offer will have all of the Jamaican competitors talking about it and looking forward to it, and it will be fresh in their minds from December until May next year."That rivalry dates back more than 40 years, to 1966, when the then-chairman of the BRC, Trevor Gale, was invited to compete in a navigational event in Jamaica, along with other Club members, including Bill Mallalieu and John Sealy. 
Since then, rally drivers and their cars have travelled north or south to engage in enthusiastic and friendly competition, and to try and take home some trophies.Since the introduction in 1990 of what was originally called the International All-Stage Rally - it was renamed Rally Barbados in 2003 - a steady stream of Jamaican crews has challenged the best of Barbados for its premier trophy. Duncan Stewart was the first Jamaican to claim a top 10 result, sixth in 1992 in a four-wheel-drive Suzuki Swift with co-driver John de Mercado.Soon after, Jamaicans were knocking much harder on the door - Jeffrey Panton finished second in his first Toyota Celica GT4 in 1994 (co-driven by Rene McDaniel) and 1996 (Rudi Meikle); David Summerbell finished in the runner-up spot in 1995, with Barbados co-driver Stewart Gill in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III.The breakhrough finally came in 1998, Panton claiming victory, now with de Mercado as co-driver. 
In recent years, the Jamaican charge has been led by Gary Gregg and Hugh Hutchinson; they finished fourth in 2003 in an Evo VI, third in their first appearance in Barbados in Gregg's ex-Carlos Sainz Ford Focus WRC in 2005 (and again in 2008), and claimed a second win for Jamaica in 2006, also going on to become the first crew to win Rally Barbados and Rally Jamaica in the same year. 
Of the two-wheel-drive contenders, Tarik Minott has been the most successful of late, winning SuperModified 11 in 2007, co-driven by the experienced Peter Clarke in the Suzuki Ignis formerly campaigned by Sean Gill and Michael Cummins.Despite the best efforts of some of its leading drivers, Barbados has yet to lift the crown in Rally Jamaica, but is represented by its strongest team yet this year - seven crews are entered, all of whom are either top 10 finishers or Group winners in the event over the past five years.
Recently-crowned Overall Champion in the Virgin Atlantic BRC RallySport Championship, Roger Skeete has come closest to victory in Jamaica, having finished second to Doug Gore in 2003 - now driving the Subaru Impreza WRC S9 in which Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell finished second to three-time winner Gregg in Jamaica last year, Skeete will be hoping his partnership with co-driver Robert Simmons will prove to be the winning combination.
The similar car of Paul Bourne and Stuart Maloney is another which local fans hope can prevail, Bourne seeking to add a Jamaican victory to those in Rally Barbados (2003, 2007) and Rally Trinidad (2008). Third last year and fourth in 2003, he also has useful knowledge of the stages.Barbados is well-represented in Group N, with a trio of Subaru Imprezas. The newest of these, the latest N14, has recently been acquired by Barbados-based British ex-pat Harold Morley, who finished fourth in 2004, eighth in 2006 in his previous Impreza World Cars and was sixth overall and leading Group N before retirement last year; as usual, he will have the experienced Bajan Geoffrey Goddard co-driving.
Meanwhile, the crew which placed ninth overall last year, fourth in Group N, James Betts and Dean Serrao, will each drive an Impreza this year; Betts will be co-driven by Jeremy Gonsalves and Serrao by Clint Gregory.On the two-wheel-drive front, Jonathan Still faces four local crews in JA4 in his BMW M3; with regular co-driver Heath Hazell unable to make the trip, Still is aiming to repeat their Group win of 2006, this time co-driven by Jamaica's David Anderson. Last, but certainly not least - especially in the eyes of Jamaican fans - Gill and Cummins are entered in their Suzuki Swift. 
While he twice won his Group in the previous Ignis, Gill has posted dnfs on both visits with the Swift, although his impressive fourth overall on last year's Friday night stages at the National Stadium will not be forgotten quickly. 
Jamaican rules require the Swift to add weight to run in the same Group as local cars, which Gill has decided against, saying: "I'm looking forward to see how far up the overall order we can get." With 18 four-wheel-drive cars among the 44 confirmed entries, he should certainly enjoy himself.
For further information, robin@bradfax.com

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