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Former UK National Rally Champion Paul Bird is targetting a third consecutive victory at Sol Rally Barbados 2014 in the Frank Bird Poultry/Fuchs Titan Oils/Kick Energy/Rapid Solicitors Ford Focus WRC08. The most successful overseas visitor to the Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport international, he is also the first driver to have finished on the podium six years in a row, and would become only the second to claim a hat-trick.

  From his base in Northern England, Bird, who will again have Aled Davies as co-driver, said  “After winning the event for the past two years, I’m hungry for the hat-trick so I’ve sent my entry in and stated my intentions early. We had a good run last year and had no major issues with the car and, for once, I didn’t make too many mistakes. This is a fantastic event and I’ve been privileged to win it two years in a row, so I hope to continue that into 2014. I’m not going all that way to finish second.”

  The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is celebrating the 25th running of its blue riband event next year, when Sol RB14 is scheduled for May 31/June 1, with Scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 24/25). Of the current total of nearly 40 entries posted on the official web site,, 29 are International, one shy of the cap of 30 crews which will benefit from the event’s programme of subsidies, which include loyalty discounts for repeat visitors.

  The BRC is encouraging International crews to continue to post entries, however. Club PRO Neil Barnard said: “It was a difficult decision to cap the subsidies at 30, but we have so far not disappointed anyone . . . for the last couple of years, we have had nearly 40 International entries, but up to 10 have withdrawn for a variety of reasons. When that happens, we simply move the next eligible entry into the subsidy bracket.

  “The response for 2014 has been terrific, with six first-timers among the International entries, some with very interesting cars. In addition, with ‘Birdy’ stating he is not coming back to finish second and our Bajan aces determined to step back onto the top of the podium, we're in for a real fight for top honours next year."

  In Sol RB13, Bird joined Ulstermen Kenny McKinstry and Kris Meeke on the list of two-time winners from overseas, enhancing his already impressive record; he finished second to Meeke in 2008 (Subaru Impreza WRC S9) and ’09 (Ford Focus WRC07), then third for the next two years in his Focus WRC08, before claiming the first of his two victories in 2012. Indeed, his record, achieved in just six years, is eclipsed only by those of local drivers Paul Bourne and Roger Skeete, whose stats cover more than two decades: Bourne, also a double winner, has finished twice six times and third four, while 12-time winner Skeete also has one second- and two third-place finishes to his credit.

Mixed fortunes for Barbados connections as UK season draws to a close

As the rally season in the UK draws to a close, Barbados regulars have enjoyed mixed fortunes. After several attempts, Rob Swann finally won last month’s Tempest Rally, his first loose-surface outing in his recently-acquired Subaru Impreza WRC S11.

  It was a close-run thing, however, as he reported afterwards: “Wow, finally won this one after seconds and thirds. I had a long day learning the car on gravel and finding the limits. I stalled on the line of stage 1 and lost 10 seconds but, after raising the pace a bit, we took the lead and increased it, despite some silly over-shoots pushing too hard.

  “On the penultimate stage, a gear box problem developed and we lost 21 of our 28 seconds advantage on the last stage . . . in two-and-a-half miles! We just made it back to service, missing gears and drive - too close for comfort, but just great!”

  Last weekend (November 15-17), Roger Duckworth retired his Subaru Impreza WRC S6 with a blown engine after stage 1 of the Three-day National Rally, which ran alongside Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, while Steve Perez crashed his Amigos Rally Team Lancia Stratos heavily on stage 1 of the previous weekend’s Roger Albert Clark Rally. After a long night at preparation team BTR’s workshops, however, replacing the smashed co-driver’s door and part of the roll cage, the iconic 1974 machine reappeared: Perez ran as Zero Car, much to the delight of the massive crowds, until a broken driveshaft on Sunday morning finally ended his weekend.

  Perez, Geoff Bell and Andrew Siddall – the members of the G-WRC, Gentleman’s World Rally Club – are currently in action in the East African Safari Rally in a trio of Kick Energy Amigos Rally Team Datsun 260Zs. After the first day’s (Thursday) three stages, totaling nearly 220 kilometres – twice as long as Sol RB13 – Bell is seventh, Siddall ninth and Perez 10th.

Sol Rally Barbados and Scotiabank King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 55th Anniversary in 2012; Sol RB14 is the 25th running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the seventh year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.

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