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Jamaica’s Panton is Barbados Rally Club 2017 Champion Driver

With a top 10 finish on his debut in Sol Rally Barbados 2017 under his belt, British lawyer Graham Coffey has confirmed that he will return next year for what he describes as a “full-on, amazing, great rally”. His Impreza WRC S12B is one of three Subarus confirmed today (December 4) for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, alongside those of fellow Brits Rob Swann (S12B) and Simon Wallis (N10), who will each be competing for the 11th time.

  Organised by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC), which celebrated its 60th Anniversary this year, Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill on May 26/27. In the two months since entries for the 29th running of the Club’s premier event opened on the official web site - – more than 50 have been posted, with record interest from overseas.

  Coffey, who finished eighth in Sol RB17, is from Rochdale in the north-west of England; having been a competitor for 21 years, he is now also an event sponsor, supporting the annual Neil Howard Stages in early November at Oulton Park, the iconic Cheshire racetrack an hour so outside Manchester, where his legal practice is based. He has twice won the event in his Impreza, but finished fifth this year (November 4) in his Ford Fiesta WRC, when Kevin Procter (Fiesta) claimed back-to-back victories.

  During the event, Coffey said: “I needed to put something back in to the sport, and this is the closest rally to Manchester. A normal rally isn’t really spectator-friendly, but a lot of people come to watch this; there’s a real family environment, with a bonfire as well.” It was at Oulton Park last year that Procter, who first travelled to Barbados in 2003, persuaded Coffey to make the trip; and the newcomer did it in style, travelling with a group of around 20 to celebrate a landmark birthday for his partner Lyndsay.

  Coffey added: “I learned quite a lot in my first experience of Barbados, in particular the road surface. People were telling me the grip’s not that great, and I actually thought that the grip wasn’t bad. So I’d been expecting some worse grip and I was also expecting more of a holiday type of rally . . . and the fact is that it is a full-on, amazing, great rally. I probably went with the wrong mindset, but now I know more about what goes on and how it operates, I’m really looking forward to another crack at it next year.”

  Coffey’s co-driver in the ex-Petter Solberg S12B (Sweden fourth, Monte Carlo fifth in 2008) will again be Welshman Patrick Walsh; they have competed in Europe together, notably finishing third in a field of around 150 in Rally National Le Bethunois, a round of the France Cup, last year, then seventh in September this year. Coffey has rallied on the Continent for many years, winning the German National Championship ‘on the road’ in 2013, although local rules prevented a non-national from claiming the title.

  Swann’s Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/Cygnet Plant S12B is already in the island, having finished second in last month’s BRC Winter Rally. Reunited with Welsh co-driver Darren Garrod for Sol RB17, Swann matched his previous best of second (2014), making four top six finishes since his debut in RB08; he finished ninth overall and won Group N in 2010 in an Impreza N14, also winning GpN in Rally Jamaica, the first – and so far only – driver to do the double in the same year.

  Swann said: “We enjoyed the Winter Rally, but had a problem which turns out to be connected to the brake pressure and centre diff. We spun twice Friday night, losing time, then had to drive all Saturday with the diff locked and no hand brake; we ran the whole day on full wet tyres, the first time I have used any in 10 years of rallying in Barbados. I will do some speed events and the Shakedown Stages as preparation for RB18.”

  For Cambridgeshire computer specialist Simon Wallis, his 11th trip to Barbados will be the fifth driving the N10 - his 40th birthday present to himself ahead of Sol RB10 - and his third with co-driver Peter Horsman. Originally a Group N car, it now runs in Group A, with a larger turbo restrictor and, since its last visit, also lighter, with a carbon fibre boot lid and rear spoiler. Wallis has been on the class podium five times in seven finishes, but Sol RB16, which he lists among his ‘major disasters’, was not among them: “We retired with a broken windscreen and a very mangled bonnet after we forgot to re-fit the bonnet pins before leaving Rally Central; not our most glorious moment!”

Jamaica’s Panton is Barbados Rally Club 2017 Champion Driver

Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton (Ford Focus WRC06) has added the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Champion Driver title to his third Sol Rally Barbados win to round off a perfect 2017 campaign with co-driver Michael Fennell Jnr, also winning the WRC class and 4wd Championship. Panton, whose 100 per cent record of class wins was completed in the recent BRC Winter Rally (November 24/25), is the first overseas driver to claim the title.

  Only half the field finished, as competitors and organisers battled torrential rainstorms, Rally Director Neil Barnard saying: “That was one of the toughest rallies I have ever been involved in as an organiser. I can’t say enough about the marshals, the RRT crews and all the support personnel for their performance in the most difficult conditions.”

  Rob Swann and Darren Garrod (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), finished second, while early leader Paul Bird, co-driven by Stuart Loudoun, retired with a blown clutch in his Focus WRC07. Third and highest 2wd were locals Barry Mayers and Ben Norris (Ford Fiesta), leading home outgoing Champion Driver Daryl Clarke and Russell Brancker (Honda Civic) and winning the 2wd Championship.


Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB18 marks the 11th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the third by communications provider Flow.

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