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The final countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2017 is under way, with just 14 days to go before the first major event, the all-new Simpson Motors Rally Show on Saturday, May 27. Flow King of the Hill will follow on Sunday, with the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol RB17, running from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4. Nearly all 44 overseas cars on the provisional entry list are now in the island, ready to face the 48 local crews.

  The first European competitors start landing at the Grantley Adams International Airport in the middle of this week to be reunited with the rally cars they last saw on the dockside at Portsmouth in the UK just over three weeks ago. Thereafter, daily arrivals will carry the number of overseas visitors soaring past 300, those from the wider Caribbean and North America joined by long-haul visitors from as far as Australia and New Zealand, who will be spending more than 24 hours on their journeys.

  While competing in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event is the key driver for the overseas competitors, many chose to time their visit to coincide with a family celebration, such as a big number birthday. This year, there will be at least two birthdays to celebrate, including Scottish regular Kenny Hall, who marks his 60th year at the same time as the BRC, and two beachside wedding ceremonies between Flow KotH and Sol RB17, while a number of other competitors will be marking major birthdays or wedding anniversaries at different times of this year with their trip to the Caribbean.

  On the ground in Barbados, preparation work is continuing apace. Since the 132.60-kilometre, 22-stage route was confirmed at the Media Briefing on Wednesday (May 10), crews have been out with yellow paint to mark the starts and finishes of each of the special stages, along with other indicators, such as the location of chicanes. In addition, the organisers have made available on YouTube in-car runs through each of the stages, to help competitors familiarise themselves with the terrain.

  Rally Director Neil Barnard said: “It is all becoming very real now. A large number of volunteers have already put in a huge amount of work, and I thank them all for having contributed to our current state of readiness. We still have residents’ letters to hand out, which explain when they will be affected by our road closures, which is a job for the next week or so. Again, thanks to everyone who helps with that.”

Rally Club praises smooth Bridgetown Port operation

Early last Saturday, the Geest Line freighter Benguela Stream docked at the Bridgetown Port carrying a record-equalling number of 32 rally cars, plus two light vans to be used as service vehicles, in readiness for Flow King of the Hill (May 28) and Sol Rally Barbados 2017 (June 2-4). Off-loaded and parked up during the day, the cars were then released mid-week and transported to the pits at Bushy Park, St Philip.

  Sol RB17 Rally Office Manager Jeanne Crawford reports that the excercise went extremely smoothly, as Club volunteers worked alongside Port employees: “I must thank the officers of Barbados Port Inc, the Barbados Customs & Excise Department and the guys in Shed 4 for the whole day going so well. Clearing the cars from the Port also went well, with all the cars now tucked up in Rally Central.

  “Thanks to Sol RB17 Chairman Mark Hamilton, Roger Hill and Barry Ward for spending a lot of time in the heat below decks on the Benguela, and Neil Corbin, Graham Gittens, Clive Howell and Rhett Watson, who must also have lost more than a few pounds pushing rally cars around on the dock.”

  Bushy Park is the new home of ‘Rally Central’, which provides a secure location in which the cars are stored, awaiting the arrival of their owners. In addition to the traditional services provided at Rally Central in the past, workshop facilities, office, 24-hour security, storage and washrooms, the new location also provides the added advantage of track time being available for testing.

  There has been heightened social media interest in the arrival of this year’s shipment of overseas entries, as access to information grows exponentially. During the latter part of the unloading process, BRC Competitions Secretary Neil Corbin was Live on Facebook for a while, showing how each car was dealt with; the owners would have detailed whether a car could be driven, or whether it would need a tow, perhaps explained a complex starting procedure, so the crew of helpers immediately knew how to react.

  Many British teams followed the events closely, along with viewers from around the region and North America, posting comments thanking the dockside volunteers for their professionalism. Afterwards, Corbin said: “Hopefully, this type of coverage will help alleviate any concerns that first-time or potential overseas visitors might have about how we look after their ‘pride & joy’ when it lands in Barbados. The metrics were pretty impressive, too, with a reach of over 44,000 persons and 7,200 views at the time, and the figures have risen steadily.”


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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