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Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell Jnr claimed their fourth consecutive win at Flow King of the Hill - image courtesy Corey Reece/Image Vault
courtesy of Nicholas Bhajan Photography, Rob Swann and Steve McNulty set the early pace, but lost out on the final run
courtesy of Nicholas Bhajan Photography, Roger Mayers and Sean Corbin finished fifth overall and top 2wd
courtesy of Nicholas Bhajan Photography, Britain’s Tom Preston and Carl Williamson won the new FIA R5 class
courtesy of Nicholas Bhajan Photography, Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew were happy with their pace, and their third-place finish


Huge crowds attend final Sol RB19 shakedown at Stewart’s Hill

Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell re-wrote the record books again yesterday (Sunday) with their fourth straight victory in Flow King of the Hill, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) annual Sol Rally Barbados shakedown. Having trailed England’s Rob Swann for the first three runs, Panton made the final run count, to win by a margin of 12 hundredths of a second in the Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06.

With the car undergoing a total rebuild, Panton has seen no action since last year, as he explained at the finish: “The times today reflect how much I had to catch back up. All day I really thought Rob had it, right up to the last run when we put on a set of fresh tyres and just went for it. To come out on top is a major confidence boost for next weekend, when we need to be driving more like we did in the last run.”

Swann’s determination was evident from the first run in the Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/RA Swann Ltd Subaru Impreza WRC S12B - at 2m 17.43s, he was 2secs quicker than Panton, despite giving local fan Amy Speede a passenger ride in co-driver Steve McNulty’s seat. Swann said: “It was my intention to be on full attack and I am sure Amy enjoyed it! With Steve back in the car, the second run was good and I had more to give. Unfortunately, I stalled on the line for run three, which should have been our quick one, so I aborted it. Then on the fourth, I made a couple of small mistakes on the loose part through Golden Grove and at this level you can’t afford any mistakes, however small.”

Still getting used to the huge differences between his former Peugeot 306 Maxi and the Sol/CO Williams Sand & Lime/Automotive Art Impreza S12B, Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew were not far adrift, 1.48s behind Panton on their final run. Skeete said: “It felt good to be in the mix with Jeffrey and Rob, especially not having perfect runs and still being a bit untidy. We took no risks and I don't think that third on the road for Sol Rally Barbados is a bad place to be, so I'm hoping to jump them on Friday.”

England’s Kevin Procter (Procters Coaches/Swift Signs & Shirts Ford Fiesta) was fourth, another 3.6secs behind Skeete, but just one-quarter of a second ahead of Roger Mayers (Chefette/Rubis/Hankook/Sign Depot Toyota WR Starlet), who finished fastest 2wd for the first time since 2014. He said: “We had a lot of work to do after Shakedown handling-wise and the car feels perhaps better than before. I am confident headed into the weekend, unlike last year where I just had one run at King of the Hill and had a lower road position for the rally. This year, fifth on the road is good and I will set my sights on Mr Procter over the weekend.”

Roger Hill (Esso/Nassco/Pennzoil/MaxMeyer Paints/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC) finished sixth and won Modified 4, having trailed Mark Thompson (Glassesco/NKM Clothing/Bio Beauty/Automotive Art/SLAM 101.1FM Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) in the class until the final run – Thompson ended up ninth overall – with Rhett Watson and Barry Mayers (Chefette/Rubis/Hankook/Sign Depot Ford Fiesta) seventh and eighth. Another lacking seat time in his Chefette/Gliptone/Stihl/Leafy Organics/Gunk/Power King Batteries/Bajan Pure Water/Its Barbados BMW M3, Watson said: “It was a little difficult getting back in, feeling the car out. By the second run, the feeling was there, but the car is very different with the improvements that come with a new shell, so I don't feel bad to be a second or so off Barry and Roger; I know where some of that time can be found.”

Now running in Group B and therefore not eligible for overall position, Andrew Jones powered the Herr’s/Lucozade/AP Jones Pharmacy/Southern Surf Beach Apartments Ford Escort MkII to 10th fastest, ahead of British visitors Tom Preston and Nigel Worswick, who added donuts to the menu in the later runs once they were sure of a strong result. Preston, who won the new FIA R5 class in the Hippo Motor Group Skoda Fabia, said: “It has been beautiful here; we had a solid third run and then did some entertaining in the last. During the week we'll be enjoying what the country has to offer until Thursday, then it's rally mode.” Worswick was third in M4 in the Ullyetts Machine Shop Service/Rallytech Composites/Worswick Engineering/Rockwell Automation Escort WRC.

The return to Stewart’s Hill attracted huge crowds, who gathered from early to bag the best vantage points, not only along and overlooking the Thickets Straight, but also lining earlier sections of the 4.45kms course, which started at St Catherine’s Church. Trevor Manning (Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo) and then Nigel Reece, co-driven in the MQI-supported BimmaCup car by Daryl Clarke, warmed the crowd up in Zero Car mode ahead of the record-breaking field of 95 cars, which ran in reverse order of seeding, from Clubman up to WRC. All but one of the 95 recorded a time on at least one run.

While the smallest margin of victory had been the overall win, there were other victories claimed in tenths of a second: in SM1, Jeremy Gonsalves (Sign Depot/Guava Tech/Valvoline/Makita/In Gear Auto/John Hardman Engineering Opel Corsa) beat Neil Corbin (Nassco/Jason Jones/Valvoline/Sun General Insurance/Auto Solutions/Emtage Electric Starlet), by just 0.75s after Corbin pulled off on the second run with a severe vibration and did not reappear; in Modified 2, Jamal Brathwaite (Valvoline/Automotive Art/Consumers Guarantee Insurance/Caribbean Auto Glass/TEC Barbados/Stylz Auto Spa/Chicken Pen Racing/JSB Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R) beat Paul Horton of the Turks & Caicos Motoring Club by 0.77s, Horton with his Java Island/Sky Motorsports/H Racing/Arbikie Highland Estate Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX reshelled after an major accident just four weeks before; in Historic 2, impressive first-timer Alex Allingham (HJ Weir Engineering/Weir Laundry Equipment/Wecotec Laundry Equipment Ford Escort MkII) headed consistent class-winner Greg Cozier (Barbados Historic Rally Carnival/Geest Line Escort RS) by 0.96s.

Logan Watson (Leafy Organics/Cargo BGI/Luxe Caribbean Properties/Stihl/It’s Barbados/Sign Depot/Bajan Pure Water BMW M3) won the new M3 class by a margin of 1.6s from Justin Campbell (Republic Bank/Automotive Art/Five Star Fast Track/Hilti/Sign Station/Dream Solutions/Standford Industries/CRT BMW M3) while Edward Corbin (Valvoline/Hilti/Cargo BGI Daihatsu Charmant) headed Scotland’s Kenny Hall (Halltune Garage Ford Puma S1600) for M1 honours by 3.68s. Returning to Sol RB after a few years’ absence, Ian Warren (West Lake/Benthams Farm & Garden/Guava Tech BimmaCup) won Clubman 2, while first-time driver on the island’s premier event, Jason Tull (Jay-T’s/CA Autobody Repairs/Devon Star/Dominus PHD/CST Tyres/Computech Solutions Peugeot 106 Rallye S2) took home the C1 trophy.

Sol Rally Barbados (May 31-June 2) and Flow King of the Hill (May 26) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Title sponsors: The Sol Group and Flow. Major partners: Automotive Art, Banks, Chefette, Sagicor and Simpson Motors. Partners: Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Geest Line, MQI, R L Seale & Co Ltd, Stoute’s Car Rental and the Tourism Development Corporation

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