A TOUCH OF CLASS FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS 2017

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A TOUCH OF CLASS FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS 2017

Forty trips – and counting – for repeat visitors

With five more entries from the UK confirmed today (March 10) for Sol Rally Barbados 2017 – two from newcomers to the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event – local drivers right through the field, not just those chasing outright victory, will be pitting their skills against visiting crews. All 15 classes now have at least one entry, with only four lacking an overseas crew, but there are more announcements to come.

 As the BRC marks its 60th Anniversary, Sol RB17 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4, and Flow King of the Hill, on which the seeding for the main event is based, the previous Sunday (May 28). Since entries opened on October 1 on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, more than 70 have been posted, two-thirds from overseas.

 The first-timers are from Scotland, both having learned of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international through regulars such as Kenny Hall and Allan Mackay; indeed, James Thomson, an agricultural estate overseer from Melrose, Roxburghshire, is a near neighbour of Hall’s. Thomson was the Scottish 1300cc Champion in 1995, then won the 1400cc class in the North of England Tarmac Championship in 2014. With co-driver, fellow Scot Shaun Douglas, he will campaign his Walker Groundworks/Halltune Garage Vauxhall Nova in the Modified class. There will be around 20 supporters on hand, too, as they celebrate Hall’s 60th birthday, which falls during their Caribbean trip.

 Robin and Vanessa Hamilton also have reason to celebrate, as 2017 marks their 10th wedding anniversary, a key driver behind their trip. The couple from Gorebridge, 30 miles north of Melrose, will contest Historic 1 in their Robin Hamilton Autos Talbot Sunbeam, in which Hamilton finished third in the iconic Tour of Mull in 1990. The car was then re-shelled into a rear-wheel-drive Peugeot 205 - the original shell was kept in storage - in which dietician Vanessa first rallied with her future husband in 1999.

 Between them, the couple have won a good number of event and year-end titles, Robin twice the Scottish Tarmac Champion (STC), while Vanessa has been top female co-driver three times in the STC. They have also rallied an MG Metro 6R4 – Robin still recalls pushing it over the Mull finish line, losing the STC title in the process – but enjoy their outings in the Sunbeam, which has now been rebuilt to original spec.

Forty trips – and counting – for repeat visitors

Returnees Peter Gallagher, Martin and Janet Taylor, Paul Rees and Stuart Leach have already amassed a total of 33 visits between them to compete on the island, a number which rises over 40, once other holidays or trips to support friends are added in.

 Paul ‘Tourist Man’ Rees, Welsh by birth but living in Mansfield in the British Midlands, marks the 14th anniversary of his first visit to the island’s premier event. Fourth in Modified 5 in a Vauxhall Nova in 2003, worked on the organising team for the next three years and married island motor sport stalwart Biddy Barber’s daughter Ali, so they also have an anniversary to celebrate. He has competed four times since, once as co-driver to Tom Roberts, which ended just a few corners into stage one of Sol RB09, and three times as driver in a Vauxhall Astra, winning his class in Sol RB13.

 He is moving up to M2 with a new 2-litre engine in his Coconut Court Beach Hotel Astra, and had targeted a shakedown at last Sunday’s Imperial Commercials Volkswagen Rally at Donington Park, just 30 miles from home. All did not go to plan, however, as the 2-litre engine had an issue and Rees had to use his 1600cc car, which then developed its own issues. Rees said: “After it twice stuck in second gear for a few miles, I snapped a driveshaft trying too hard on the last stage to claw back 17 seconds and get second in class. We still finished third in class, though.” The 2-litre engine should be installed this weekend, with a Track Day now the plan for a ‘shakedown’ before shipping to Barbados, where his co-driver will be Stuart Leach, the Englishman competing for the eighth time.

 Gallagher and the Taylors were among visitors to the Sol RB stand at Autosport International in January. On their first two trips to Barbados, in 2003 and ’04, Gallagher was co-driver in Taylor’s Dublin Crystal Proton Satria, winning the class on their second attempt. They still share the car: Taylor is now an MSA-registered Safety Car Driver and performed Zero Car duties on the 2016 Circuit of Ireland, with Gallagher alongside.

 This year is Gallagher’s 11th visit, again entered with local co-driver Rene Forde in the Clubman class Peugeot 206XSi, in which he finished class runner-up in the Irish Tarmac Championship in 2009. It has been upgraded since Sol RB16, reports Gallagher: “It has brand new Peugeot Sport suspension front and rear, new arms, new everything, so myself and Rene will be after a class win, having come second last year. Looking forward to renewing old friendships over a Banks beer or two!”

 Taylor competes for the first time since 2012, chalking up his seventh outing on the event and wife Janet’s third, having been co-driver in 2008 and ’10, and they are looking forward to it. Taylor says: “I am currently rebuilding car, and we are arranging the shipping from Dublin of our two cars plus Kevin Flanagan's Mini.”

 

Sol Rally Barbados (June 2-4, 2017) and Flow King of the Hill (May 28) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB17 marks the 10th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the second by communications provider Flow.

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