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Dane Skeete, pictured by Corey Reece/Image Vault, in action last Sunday in the Subaru Impreza WRC S12B
Roger Skeete was a spectator last Sunday, snapped watching son Dane compete by Corey Reece/Image Vault
The flying Ford Escort MkII of Gary and Linda Thomas in this image from Sol RB18 by Himal Reece/justbajan
In this Kieren Griffin image, Damien Pratts pushes on in the Tsalta Motorsport Ford Escort MkII in Wales Rally GB National 2018


Race against time for Tsalta Motorsport

Roger Skeete, the most successful driver in the history of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, is switching roles with son Dane for Sol Rally Barbados 2019, the event’s 30th running. With 13 victories under his belt, ‘The Sheriff’ is stepping down to facilitate “an all-Barbadian crew capable of taking the attack to them all”, swapping his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B, which has won the event three times in his hands, with the Peugeot 306 Maxi in which Dane finished eighth overall last year.

On-line confirmation of the entries – on official web site – comes days after Dane won the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s Spring Blaze double-header last Sunday (March 17), using the first event of the season as “a shakedown”. With the Peugeot not yet ready, Roger looked proudly on from the sidelines as his son put the CO Williams Sand & Lime, Sol and Automotive Art-backed Impreza through its paces. Dane’s co-driver will again be Tyler Mayhew, with Roger’s yet to be confirmed.

Sol RB19 will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show on the previous Saturday (May 25) followed by Flow King of the Hill at its new Stewarts Hill location on the Sunday; in three decades, it has evolved from small beginnings as the All-Stage Rally of 1990 into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International and a key National Event on the island’s sports-tourism calendar.

Roger said: “At 64, it is not likely I can do what I used to do 15 to 20 years ago, so the Subaru is now in more capable hands to sustain a consistent attack on the opposition. Dane and Tyler give us an ‘all-Barbadian crew’ - Barbados needs them to take the attack to them all. Dane is more than ready to drive the Subaru, he just needs time to become familiar with the additional weight that SM2 cars don’t have to carry.”

Of his performance on Sunday, when some of his moves in the tighter turns had the fans jumping, Dane said: “It was more a shakedown than anything else. The car was on some very old rubber and the surface was quite loose, so I used the opportunity to feel out how the car reacts to being tossed around a bit. I'm hoping that the Shakedown Stages are dry, so I can be a little tidier.

“In terms of seat time, I still have a long way to go. It's going to take a while to build up the commitment level, especially in the high speed and heavy braking areas. The trickiest thing to deal with so far is the braking. The S12 carries a cool 250 kilos more than the 306 and that makes itself apparent under heavy braking.”

Roger is no stranger to Peugeot; his first five wins on the island’s premier event in the early 1990s came in 205 GTis, the sixth in a 306 S16: “I shall enjoy the iconic Peugeot Maxi. I still have a fondness for them and the Maxi is a great car. Simon Gillmore and I are still trying to get it together so the ‘Ol Boy’ can drive it effectively! There’s a huge difference between driving a WRC car and almost any other type in terms of ease and comfort. The Peugeot will be quick, but a lot of hard work, compared to the Subaru.” Dane added: “I'm definitely looking forward to seeing my Dad in the Maxi.”

Race against time for Tsalta Motorsport

Tsalta Motorsport is facing a difficult deadline ahead of Sol Rally Barbados yet again; last year, the Welsh preparation and rally car rental business was so busy with UK rentals that owners Gary and Linda Thomas had to source a Ford Escort MkII for themselves to compete in Sol RB18 – that meant a 1,000-mile round trip to Scotland – and this year, they need to reshell a MkII for their customer and Barbados newcomer Damian Pratts.

For the Thomases, Clubman-Historic class winners in 2012, last year’s panic purchase served them well enough, even with a constant crank sensor problem that was only fixed for the last stage; they claimed their fourth overall finish in seven visits - 25th, third in SuperModified 2 – and added to their class trophy haul. A successful business means the husband and wife team have done only one rally since Sol RB18, the Red Kite Stages last June, finishing class-winners and ninth overall in one of their road rally Escorts.

New to Barbados are English driver Pratts and his Welsh co-driver Jonny ‘Tad’ Evans. Having driven a Ford Sierra Cosworth for a couple of years in hill climbs in Spain, where he lives, the 31-year-old entrepreneur enjoyed a test day in the Tsalta Escort at the Forest Experience Rally School in Wales so much that he decided he wanted to master the art of rallying . . . and he raised a few eyebrows in 2018, his first season.

He tackled all seven rounds of the British Trial & Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) Championship, finishing third in Class B12, regularly in the top three during the second half of the year, while Evans benefitted from a couple of partnership changes to finish second in the co-driver standings. Pratts and Evans also won their class (E5) in the MSA English Rally Championship and finished third in class (W12) in the Welsh Championship.

With an uprated engine and new Reiger suspension, Pratts started 2019 well, class-winner, second 2wd and 16th overall among 70 finishers on the Cambrian Rally, opening round of the BTRDA Championship. But his season went downhill three weeks later, when he rolled in snowy conditions on stage three of the Malcolm Wilson Rally, having been fastest on the opening stage, then second to eventual winner Keir Beaton on SS2. Linda says: “We’re hunting for a shell. Whatever happens, the car will be ready for shipping to Barbados in one form or another, but at the moment it looks like a pickup!”

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB19 marks the 12th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fourth by communications provider Flow.Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB19 marks the 12th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fourth by communications provider Flow.;

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