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Island fan favourite, British BMW driver Martin ‘Mad-dale’ Stockdale, will have flown more than 140,000 miles in return trips across the Atlantic when he lands at London Gatwick in early June after competing in Sol Rally Barbados 2017 . . . and that’s more than 12 days in the air. This is his 17th straight appearance in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, which he, wife Glenis and family have not missed since 2001.

  Confirmation today (March 31) of Stockdale’s entry, along with three more repeat visitors, including Holland’s Frans Verbaas – he returns for the first time since 2013 with his spectacular orange Group B Mini - brings to 26 the number of overseas crews now committed to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International.

  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). Entries opened on October 1 on the official web site,, and will close on Friday, April 28; approaching 90 have been posted so far, nearly two-thirds from overseas.

  Stockdale’s choice of a BMW as his rally car – in many variations since his 2001 debut – has endeared him to local fans and helped build relationships with fellow-competitors, including island BMW ace Jonathan Still and others for whom he has built cars. His current BMW 1M Coupe, powered by a 3-litre V6 Jaguar engine and supported by Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Drive-a-Matic, Canems Engine Management and Quarry Motors, has kept him in the mix in SuperModified 3; although adding to his previous record of class wins in Modified Open and Group B looks unlikely, a class podium finish is well within reach in 2017, with co-driver Gary Miller, another returnee to the island.

  Busy on a small production line of BMWs for Caribbean customers, Stockdale has had no chance to shake down his own car, but has done some development work, as he told “We have done a bit of suspension work and the fuel pressure issue that plagued us on Sunday last year is sorted. We are looking forward to a good clean run and, of course, catching up with old friends for a couple of cocktails.”

  Dutch entrepreneur Verbaas has won Group B three times in the Verbaas Preparations and Koni-backed Mini, built in 2009 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the iconic brand’s launch. Formerly Austin Rover dealers, the Verbaas family have a collection of around 20, but this is not your average Mini: front-wheel-drive, powered by a 2-litre Opel Kit Car engine, with Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox and Opel Astra Group A suspension. Having missed three years, Verbaas is keen for another Group B win.

  Two other British crews returning after missing out on Sol RB16 are the Sparrow Hill Cars entries for Chris Shooter and partner Bev LeGood (Ford Escort MkII) and Antony Pownall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX). Shooter and LeGood return for the third time, with two overall finishes to their credit and the 2014 International Historic class win. Once regulars in the British Historic Rally Championship – they won their class in 2008 and the Shekhar Mehta ‘Spirit of Rallying’ Award the following year - they now limit their rallying to a handful of events such as the Tour of Flanders, Rally Isle of Man and the National event on Wales Rally GB in 2013, with class wins and top 10 finishes to their credit.

  Shooter’s support crew in 2014 included former hill-climb and circuit racer Pownall, a regular in the Renault 5 Turbo Championship in the 1980s, who so enjoyed the trip that he bought a rally car to compete in 2015. Pownall also collects Veteran cars, including a 1901 De-Dion Bouton, in which he and Shooter have regularly finished the world-famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Having achieved an overall finish in Sol RB15, sixth in Group N, he is looking forward to his return, with new co-driver Lee Almond.

60th Anniversary celebrations to reflect BRC’s founding values

In its 60th Anniversary year, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) membership has been urged not only to celebrate the past but also to consider the future, in particular to seek out the new generation needed to carry the BRC into the next few decades. In his annual report at last Monday’s (April 27) AGM, Chairman Mark Hamilton noted this as “a critical time for the Club and its membership to understand where we are going and why. Our Club has grown significantly in the past 10 years and, in my view, has the distinction of being at the pinnacle of planning and execution within island motor sport, but this has now placed an unsustainable strain on some aspects of our operations. Simply put, the load needs to be shared over a broader support structure.”

  Plans to celebrate the BRC’s 60th Anniversary remain “a work in progress”, said Hamilton, but will not feature the major functions, such as a Gala Dinner, which marked the half-century. Rather, the celebrations will reflect the casual atmosphere of the Club’s early events and the family values on which the Club was founded. These will include a Sunday barbecue at the finish of the Sol June Safari, this year’s edition of the region’s longest-standing motor sport event with a continuous history – it was the success of the 1957 June Rally, a navigational event, which prompted the founding of the Club.


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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