PROCTER CONFIRMED FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS

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PROCTER CONFIRMED FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS

Britain’s Kevin Procter, favoured by island motor sport fans for his flamboyant and attacking driving style, has started his preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2014 on a high note. Last Saturday (December 28), with regular co-driver Dave Bellerby, he won the Christmas Stages Rally in the North of England for the fifth time in six years in the Procters Coaches Subaru Impreza WRC S7.

  Procter, who is currently enjoying a family New Year holiday in Barbados, is one of two UK entries in WRC-2 confirmed this week for the 25th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event; Sol RB14 is scheduled for May 31/June 1, with Scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 24/25).

  Procter’s victory in last weekend’s tarmac rally at Croft Circuit was not plain sailing. On stage one, he beat Chris Wise, driving the MG Metro 6R4 formerly run in Barbados by Roger Mayers, by seven seconds; a combination of Wise upping his pace and Procter striking a post, then clashing with another car, gave the Metro the lead after SS2.

  With a second stage win on SS3, Procter led Peter Taylor (Ford Focus WRC) at the half-way point, with Wise third, and a passing shower before SS5 about to shake things up. Procter was the first to find a damp patch on the high-speed approach to a chicane, slamming into it backwards with substantial damage and the loss of 20secs.

  With his lead halved, Procter, who also won October’s British Rallycross Grand Prix at Croft in his Ford Focus T16 4x4, fought back; he won the final three stages comfortably for victory by 51secs from Wise, in turn 12secs ahead of the Proton Millington of Ben Mellors, whose father Chris was the first to take a World Rally Car to Barbados in 2001.

  When Procter returned to the island last year for the first time since 2009, he was a front-runner in the new WRC-2 class, catering for World Cars built before the end of 2003, facing local Toyota dealer Roger Hill (Corolla WRC) and fellow-Brits Roger Duckworth (Impreza WRC S6) and Rob Swann (Impreza B13). All four claimed stage wins, as Duckworth won the class, finishing fifth overall, ahead of Hill and Procter.

  Including last year’s seventh place, Procter has five top 10 finishes in Barbados: his best is fourth in 2009, the second visit with the Impreza, added to fifth (RB07, Hyundai Accent WRC), ninth and highest-placed European crew (RB05, Ford Puma Evo 4 x 4), fifth and highest-placed overseas crew (RB04, Ford Escort Cosworth).

  WRC-2 will also include the Weir Laundry Equipment/H J Weir Engineering Subaru Impreza seen in Barbados two years ago with father and son crew Rob and Ross Weir. In 2014, Ross will remain in the co-driver’s seat, but Rob Smith will take over driving duties. The Impreza, built to the UK’s B13 regulations by Rob Smith Rallying Ltd, is currently being re-shelled following a big accident on the Nicky Grist Stages in the UK last July, when Smith left the road while lying ninth, with major damage to the car, although driver and co-driver were unharmed; it is being converted to tarmac spec for the 2014 MSA National Asphalt Championship and Sol RB14.

  As well as being an accomplished engineer and preparation expert, Smith has enjoyed success behind the wheel, winning the BTRDA Production Cup and the English Rally Challenge in 2005, then the ANCRO Production Cup the following year, all in an Impreza. In 2010, he won Category 3 in the British Historic Rally Championship in his Vauxhall Chevette HSR, the only non-Ford Escort driver ever to do so; the same year, he looked set to win the iconic Roger Albert Clark Rally until he was caught out by a snow bank with just two of 24 stages to go.

International interest remains high as “solid” entry develops

International interest in Sol Rally Barbados remains high ahead of the 2014 event, from both established names seeking to return and newcomers attracted by the international media coverage. Overseas crews currently represent 80 per cent of the entries posted on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, with enquiries still coming in.

  Sol RB14 Rally Office Manager Jeanne Crawford said: “The UK entries again look solid - Paul Bird heads the list, chasing a hat-trick of wins, although Jeff Panton from Jamaica seems determined to stop that happening; add in potential front-runners such as Kevin Procter and Rob Swann, crowd-pleasers like Allan Mackay and his son Euan in their Anglias, and the mix is already developing very well.

  “There are also some familiar names from the past, along with seven crews either completely new to us, or repeat visitors with a different combination of car and driver . . . and we’ve had enquiries over the Christmas period from potential newcomers from both sides of the Atlantic.”
  In contrast to the healthy overseas interest, however, local crews have been slower than usual to register this year, with fewer than 10 currently listed, compared with more than 20 at the same time last year.

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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