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Procter and Bird set to become part of rallying history in April

Following a successful shakedown at the Snetterton Stage Rally in the east of England on Sunday (February 18), Stuart Austin has confirmed that he will compete in Sol Rally Barbados for the third consecutive year. With some performance upgrades to his Accra Beach Hotel and Spa/Austin Powell Ltd/Cancer Research Subaru Impreza and a new co-driver, Austin finished 29th overall and third in class.

  The 29th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, 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. Since entries opened on the official web site - – on October 1, more than 60 have been posted, with record interest from overseas crews.

  Sunday’s eight-stage event was Austin’s first with his new co-driver, teenager Sophie Louise Buckland, but the partnership gelled very quickly; it was a busy weekend for Buckland, as she had already spent Saturday co-driving for Roger Platt in his Toyota GT86 in the Cambrian Rally, the opening round of the BTRDA Championship, in Wales, followed by a six-hour journey of approaching 300 miles to reach Snetterton.

  Buckland has been co-driving since the age of 14, first in road rallies, and was the Association of South Western Motor Clubs (ASWMC) Novice Road Rally Champion in 2017. And she was already familiar with Snetterton, although from a very different angle: “I’m really pleased to be doing this event, as this is where I won my first race as a motorcycle sidecar passenger.”

  After an overheating problem on the day’s opening stage, Austin and Buckland steadily moved up the order, his result representing the best improvement on seeding among the nearly 90-car entry for the fifth round of the increasingly popular Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship, in association with MSVR, from 81 to finish 29th.

  On his first trip to Barbados in Sol RB16, Austin finished 33rd overall and second in Group A, then 35th overall and seventh in WRC-1 (modifications to the car had moved it up the groups) last year. He said: “We are proud to have finished both years; it is a tough event, but we keep learning and hope to go even better this year.”

  Simon Wallis, who has already confirmed his return to Barbados this year, finished 41st and one place behind Austin in the class, with Peter Horsman the co-driver in his Impreza. Steve McNulty, who was Austin’s co-driver in Sol RB17, was also in action at Snetterton, where he finished eighth overall with Ian Hucklebridge in a Ford Escort MkII, the type of car well-suited to the technical, tight and twisting stages that are characteristic of the championship. Also in MkII Escorts were Darryl Morris and and Aron Rayner, regular visitors to the island with Aron’s father Pete – they finished sixth and second in class - and Steve Finch, who missed Sol RB last year after mechanical problems on Flow King of the Hill; he finished 14th with co-driver Sam Fordham and, through the family business G & B Finch, was also one of the event’s sponsors.

Procter and Bird set to become part of rallying history in April

Kevin Procter heads a list of Sol Rally Barbados regulars who are set to make rallying history in April, when they compete in the Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton, the first closed-road rally in mainland Britain to be run under new laws. Within six hours of entries opening on the event web site last Sunday (February 11), more than 100 were posted, with the maximum of 120 starters now oversubscribed.

  Following new legislation last April, Britain’s governing body, the Motor Sports Association (MSA), can now issue a closed road permit to an organising club, with additional permissions required from the local authorities, in this instance Tendring District Council and Essex County Council in south-east England. Organised by the Chelmsford Motor Club, there will be three loops through five special stages on the Tendring Peninsula, for a total of 45 miles, with the event based on the Western Esplanade in the seaside town of Clacton.

  Procter (Ford Fiesta), double Sol RB winner Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC08), Steve Perez (Lancia Stratos), Shelly Taunt (Subaru Impreza N10), Craig Salter (Ford Escort MkI), Steve Finch and Andrew Siddall (MkII Escorts) are all names familiar to Barbados fans, with a number of co-drivers also current or former island competitors, including Ireland’s Sean Hayde, who is entered as co-driver for Melvyn Evans (Impreza WRC S12B), one of Britain’s top tarmac specialists.

  In a news story in last week’s issue of Motorsport News (February 14), Jack Benyon, who visited Sol Rally Barbados in 2017, quotes Procter as saying: “There isn’t going to be loads of closed road rally events. It interests me because its different and it isn’t just going around a circuit. It’s going to be much more technical.”

  Although he was offered a drive on the ground-breaking event, Rob Swann will not be there, as the April 22 date clashes with the Shakedown Stages in Barbados, where he will kick off his 2018 Barbados Rally Club Championship campaign.


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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