European interest high in Sol Rally Barbados

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European interest high in Sol Rally Barbados

Interest from European competitors remains high, despite the challenging economic climate, with two former Group winners joining Steve Perez and Martin Stockdale on the list of returnees who have already entered on-line.
Kenny Hall, who only recently flew home to Scotland after a short New Year holiday in Barbados, is back for his seventh attack on the event, hoping to add a third win in Modified 5 to those he achieved in 2004 and 2007; on the second occasion, he and Dutch co-driver Fenny Wesselink finished 22nd overall, also claiming the award as highest-placed crew including a female.
The four-times Scottish Class Champion will return with his familiar Suzuki-powered Halltune Garage Opel Corsa, in which he and Wesselink retired last year, after rear axle failure; no longer a regular competitor in his National Championship, Hall only uses the car for occasional outings. Once such was last year’s Lion Stages, a 36-mile event in the Kielder Forest in the north of England, which is an event limited to 1400cc cars.
Hall says: "We had been intending to enter the Colin McRae Stages so, since I hadn't been rallying in the forests since 1999, Fenny and I did the Lion Stages. All the best in the class from the UK were entered, so it was going to be tough, and the conditions were really slippery, too."
Hall was fastest on three of the four stages and, although he lost out on the final stage, he was still three seconds ahead at the finish. He notes: "Well, we gave them a bit of a cuffing, but there was a scrutineering issue to do with exhaust noise and a delay which resulted in a 30-second penalty, so we ended up second. Still, I'd proved to Fenny that I could still keep it generally between the trees and we put an entry in for the McRae . . . but unfortunately didn't get one, as it was so heavily oversubscribed."
Also confirmed is Andrew Costin-Hurley, winner of Group B for the past two years in his self-built two-wheel-drive Ford Puma, which will be sponsored this year by True Colour Rallying, Aztec Composites and Earl's Performance. Costin-Hurley and wife Melissa - they became engaged on a catamaran trip in Barbados - are looking forward to the trip: "Attending Rally Barbados this year is an absolute essential for us, it's the motivation to get through the English winter, the challenge of grey skies compounded by an even greyer economy. We definitely need some Bajan optimism and blue sky!"
For his sixth Rally Barbados outing, he will be accompanied by his sixth different co-driver, although Shaun Mellett is not unfamiliar to Costin-Hurley, as they rallied together with some success in the early 1990s in the UK's Southern Tarmac Championship in a Ford Sierra Cosworth. Costin-Hurley remembers: "Unfortunately his time with me was plagued by a phase of unreliability, but we had some great moments, including lying in second and third overall places before mechanical failure intervened.
"Shaun and his wife have subsequently acted as my service crew and were in Barbados in 2003 and 2005. He's looking forward to making his navigational comeback this year, and he and Sonia are also using the Barbados trip to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary."
On-line entry system streamlined
The on-line entry system for Sol Rally Barbados has been refined since last year; each competitor now receives an automatic confirmation of receipt of the entry, while an alert is also sent automatically to members of the Sol RB09 Executive Committee, who can then follow up on any issues arising.
Chairman Barry Gale notes: "The system this year is much more streamlined, and the automatic alerts mean we can easily keep track of progress. We're only one away from 30 entries already, with a good mix of local, regional and Europeans; 10 of those already in are from the four-wheel-drive classes, so I remain optimistic about both the quality and quantity of entry that we'll have come May."
Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 30/31) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 23) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; title sponsor is the Sol Group, the Caribbean's largest independent oil company, and both events are rounds of the Virgin Atlantic BRC RallySport Championship. Associate sponsors include the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association.
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