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courtesy of Himal Reece/justbajan, Scotland’s Barry Groundwater will return this year in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
Kevin Flanagan finds a work-around to transport his car from Ireland to Scotland, where it will join others to be taken to Geest Line’s operations base in Dover, ready for shipping across the Atlantic Ocean for Sol RB19


Flanagan’s ‘Irish-Italian’ Job for Mini Cooper S

Popular Scottish driver Kenny Hall will return the Caribbean this year, eager not to miss Sol Rally Barbados 2019, the 30th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event. One of the Club’s most loyal overseas supporters, Hall will compete for the 16th time – a record he shares with Andrew Costin-Hurley, beaten only by Martin Stockdale’s 19 visits – with Dutch co-driver Fenny Wesselink back for her 11th visit.

Also confirmed from Scotland today (April 22) are Barry Groundwater and Fraser Louden, each competing for the third time, but accompanied by co-drivers new to the event. Groundwater will have Mike Hendry on the notes, while Jane Nicol, who won last year’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) and Wales Rally GB National with Andrew Gallacher, joins Louden.

Sol RB19 will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show on the previous Saturday (May 25) followed Flow King of the Hill at its new location of Stewarts Hill on Sunday, May 26; the event has evolved from small beginnings as the International 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.

Although he missed Sol RB18, only his second absence since first competing in 2002, family holidays have carried Hall’s total of island visits to well over 20; in competition, he has won his class three times, claiming a further four podium finishes. With more than 100 class wins during his active rallying career, the four-time Scottish class champion is seeking a fourth Group win in Barbados, the first in his ex-works Halltune Garage Ford Puma. On the car’s debut in 2012, a wrong-slot in the final SuperSpecial left him second in Modified 6 (23rd overall); since then he has finished second (Sol RB16) and third (Sol RB15) in class, but was a DNF in 2017 in the main event and the Sunday Cup.

Groundwater has been a consistent front-runner in the SRC, a former class and Group N Champion and regular year-end top five finisher, his results outside Scotland including top three finishes on Wales Rally GB National. Having first competed in 1997 in a Mazda 323, he dabbled with a Subaru Impreza before switching to Mitsubishi Lancers, to which he has been faithful since. Having finished 22nd overall on Sol RB15 and fourth in Group A in his previous Evo IX, he will again campaign the Groundwater Lift Trucks AMS Motorsport-prepared Evo X which was a DNF two years ago, after an ‘off’ on Saturday on Spring Vale while lying 14th; he restarted, finishing second in the Sunday Cup.

Also a former SRC class-winner – 2006, Ford Puma 1600 - Louden started rallying in 1996 in a Toyota Corolla. On the tarmac debut of his Evo IX in Sol RB15, he and daughter Abi finished 25th overall and seventh in WRC-1; all did not go so well two years ago, when Abi missed Flow KotH thanks to airline chaos in the UK, then Fraser rolled the Evo. With help from many other crews, the car was rebuilt at Bushy Park, then driven to a hugely-popular overall finish in Sol RB17, 31st, and sixth in WRC-1.

This year, Abi will not be making the trip, as Fraser is about to become a grandfather, so he will have the experienced Jane Nicol on the notes, and in a different car, too, a Mitsubishi Lancer WRC Replica, sponsored by EV Offshore, DC Garage Services and Ord Motors. Louden says: “The good news is that I’ve replaced the car I destroyed last time with the Evo that Brian Watson completed the rally in; I’m hoping it can remember the way round. The bad news is that I have done one rally since then, on gravel 15 months ago, so King Of The Hill will be my shakedown . . . but a bit slower this year!”

Nicol’s rallying dates back to the early 2000s: as a driver, she won the Ecosse 205 Championship in 2004, but then had a huge accident in an Evo four years later, which ended her driving career. As a co-driver, which started when she accepted a dare from the late Colin McRae, she is in great demand, with Barbados a ‘bucket list’ trip: “It is a reward to myself for winning last year’s SRC and then Wales Rally GB National, also photographer Eddie Kelly is celebrating his 50th, so he’ll be along for the trip, too.”

Flanagan’s ‘Irish-Italian’ Job for Mini Cooper S In a plan reminiscent of the iconic film The Italian Job, Ireland’s Kevin Flanagan spent Easter weekend fitting his Mini Cooper S in to a friend’s Mercedes Sprinter van. Why? Let Flanagan explain: “I was wondering how to get the Mini and Pete Gallagher's Evo to Dover; one of the Scottish lads suggested Five Star Vehicle Deliveries in Kilmarnock. It seems that the plan is to put ours and a couple of the Scottish cars on one transporter.”

The Five Star vehicle will leave Aberdeen with the Evos of Groundwater and Louden, plus a service barge, then pick up the two Irish cars in Kilmarnock. Flanagan, who finished 34th overall and third in SuperModified 1 in Sol RB17, this year has Vanessa Hamilton as co-driver, having struck up a close friendship with her and husband Robin, having also serviced on the Edinburgh couple’s MG Metro 6R4.

After a successful test loading, Flanagan will head off on Thursday (April 25), towing the Gallagher Evo VI. Although it will be a round trip of about 500 miles, Flanagan describes it as: “simple enough. I drive to Belfast, catch the ferry to Cairnryan, after which it is about an hour and a half to Kilmarnock. Then back later the same day.”

On his second visit with the Dublin Crystal/Peter Green Motorsport Evo VI, Gallagher will have local co-driver Rene Forde on the notes: “The engine got a bit of a refresh over the winter and I had a shakedown on a local event; the car was going well, so I am hoping for better luck this year. We broke a driveshaft on the first stage on Saturday last year, borrowed one from Geoff Phelps (fantastic for competitors in the same class to lend a hand, typical of the camaraderie in Barbados) and got out for a few stages later on, then finished ninth in the Sunday Cup.”

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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