PANTON TARGETS SOL RALLY BARBADOS VICTORY

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PANTON TARGETS SOL RALLY BARBADOS VICTORY

Just days after chalking up his second consecutive victory in his home event, Rally Jamaica, Jeffrey Panton confirmed his entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2014 . . . and his intention of winning for the first time since 1998, when he became the event’s first winner from the wider Caribbean.

  The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) celebrates the 25th running of its premier event next year - Sol RB14 is scheduled for May 31/June 1, with Scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 24/25). Since entries opened on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, nearly 50 have been posted, all but seven from overseas.

  With regular co-driver, fellow-Jamaican Mike Fennell Jnr, Panton will campaign the KIG/Rubis/Blue Orchids Hotel Ford Focus WRC06 in which they finished second last year to double-winner Paul Bird, who is chasing a hat-trick of victories in his Focus WRC08.

  Panton said: “As soon as I saw the press release saying Paul Bird had entered, we put in a provisional entry, that I am happy to confirm. We have some feathers to pluck next year . . . and Paul might just be the person to help us. He has proven to be very hard to beat, but definitely not impossible. He has actually been quite helpful with my driving in Barbados, giving me some pointers over the past two years on how to go faster in the Focus! Maybe he will give me the one last pointer I need to surpass him next year!”

  Since he replaced his ex-Colin McRae Focus WRC00 last year with the newer car, in which double World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm won the Galway International Rally 2007, Panton has finished on the podium in regional rallying’s ‘Big Three’ for two straight seasons . . . a new record for the only driver to have won all three.

  Last year, he finished second on his gravel debut in the car in Trinidad, third on his tarmac debut in Barbados, then added to his tally of six victories on the loose at home; in 2013, he won Rally Trinidad for the second time in three years, finished second in Barbados, then clocked up an eighth win in Jamaica.

  But there remains one box to tick, says Panton: “We were trying to pull off the hat-trick by winning all three Caribbean events in one year, but Barbados was our downfall. But we are much faster every time we participate in Barbados and, given our plans for 2014 to enter a couple local of events before, we think we will be right up to speed and at the same time very comfortable in the car for Sol RB14.”

  Panton’s results have contributed to an enviable record for cars run or supported by UK preparation firm Dom Buckley Motorsport, which have won the region’s last seven major events – Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell (Impreza WRC S14) claimed consecutive victories in Jamaica 2011 and Trinidad 2012, before Bird’s double in Barbados and Panton’s three wins in Trinidad and Jamaica.

  Along with Barbadian Roger Skeete, whose tally of 12 wins at home between 1990 and 2011 will take some beating, Panton is among the region’s most experienced drivers. Before his Barbados victory in 1998, he had twice finished second (1994 & ‘96) in his Toyota Celica GT4 and had already tackled his first rally outside the Caribbean, the 1996 Network Q RAC Rally, Britain’s round of the WRC.

  Seeded at number 76 of 182 starters and competing on snow for the first time, Panton and co-driver Rudy Meikle attracted the attention of the UK’s Autosport magazine; covering ‘heroic drives’ from competitors down the field, it described Panton and Meikle as the “stars of the show, throwing the car about with abandon, equally as spectacular as Armin Schwarz.” Schwarz won in his works Celica, while Panton finished 19th in a year when there were 100 retirements.

 

Barbados congratulates double-winner Meeke on Citroen WRC drive

 

On behalf of the island’s thousands of motor sport fans, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) has congratulated Kris Meeke on Monday’s (December 9) announcement that he and co-driver Paul Nagle will contest the 2014 World Rally Championship in a Citroen Racing DS3 WRC. The Ulsterman, who won Sol Rally Barbados in 2008 & ’09, becomes the first British driver contracted for a full WRC season since his mentor Colin McRae in 2003.

  Along with Mads Østberg, now confirmed as his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, Robert Kubica and Dani Sordo, Meeke was on a shortlist announced in October, although his future remained in doubt after crashing out of test events in Finland and Australia.

  BRC PRO Neil Barnard said: “We’re delighted that Kris has earned this fantastic opportunity, and are sure that he can deliver when it counts. Since his first visit to Barbados, he has become a good friend of rallying in the island, and has made many friends here, who will be following his season closely. While he was always competitive on the stages, he really understood the ethic of Sol Rally Barbados . . . and played as hard as he drove! We wish him all good fortune in 2014.”

 

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.

 

For media information only. No regulatory value.

 

For further media information: e-mail - robin@bradfax.com web sites: www.rallybarbados.net; www.barbadosrallyclub.com

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