RENOWNED ESCORT BUILDER FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS
Strong local entry filling with island winners
Former Champion Driver, now renowned builder of historic Ford Escorts, Dave Jenkins will compete in Sol Rally Barbados for the first time this year, making a rare appearance in a tarmac event, having spent most of his rallying career in the forests. He will drive for the re-branded Weir Rallying UK team, whose leading players, father and son Rob and Ross Weir, already have an enthusiastic following in the Caribbean island built up in previous visits.
Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill (KotH) the previous weekend, May 26/27. Since entries opened on the official web site - www.rallybarbados.net – on October 1 last year, approaching 90 have been posted, with six weeks to go before entries close on April 27.
Dave Jenkins Motorsport, the meticulous engineer’s Forest of Dean preparation business, has recently completed the build of a new 2-litre BDG-engined MkII Escort, which will make its competition debut in the Caribbean in the black and gold livery of the Chepstow-based team, backed by the Weir family of brands; HJ Weir Engineering is an award-winning Welsh manufacturer and exporter of large commercial and industrial laundry machines.
Team Principal Rob Weir was the driver, Ross the co-driver, on their first two visits to Sol RB12 & ‘13, achieving overall finishes and class trophies, first in a Subaru Impreza (34th), then a Triumph TR7 V8 (46th), which proved hugely popular among local fans; after a big accident on the Woodpecker Stages later that year, Rob has been advised not to drive, although he had taken the Triumph back to Barbados in 2015, hoping he had recovered sufficiently. However, the strain on his neck muscles proved too much and Rob Smith, who had built the car, took over to finish 26th and second in class, with co-driver Paul Willetts; Ross gained valuable experience that year, sitting with Roger Duckworth in his Subaru Impreza WRC S6, although a broken gearbox sidelined them.
Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Mark Hamilton says: “We’re delighted that the Weir family are coming back to Barbados, where I know they have made many friends. While I am sorry to hear that Rob will not be behind the wheel again, it is great news that he is getting so much pleasure out of the role of team boss and supporting son Ross. The TR7 with its growling V8 was a big hit with our fans, but as I’m a bit of an Escort man myself, I’m looking forward to seeing what Dave Jenkins has built . . . and what he can do with it once he gets here."
Jenkins started his career in motocross at the age of six, first competing on four wheels in 1979, aged just 17: "I passed my test on the Wednesday or Thursday, then started a road event on the Saturday night". After ‘serving his apprenticeship’ in road rallies, he moved into the forests, where he was soon a force to reckon with; he won the Association of West Midland Motor Club’s Championship within a couple of years, in a 1600 BDA-engined MkII Escort with co-driver Graham Cox, a partnership that continues to this day, despite Cox having a long lay-off in the mid-1980s after an accident on the Woodpecker Stages.
Numerous class wins in the British Trials & Rally Drivers Association Championship brought him the 1600cc class title in a rear-wheel-drive Escort Mk3, although his outings became less frequent, with a young family to support and an expanding business. After switching to an MG Metro 6R4, then Ford Sierra Cosworths, he reverted to MkII Escorts with considerable success, including finally winning the Wyedean Stages in 1996, the first local driver to win since Graham Elsmore’s hat-trick in 1975, ’76 & ’77. Although by then an irregular competitor, he returned in 2015 for the 40th running of the Wyedean, finishing second Historic: "I couldn't miss the 40th, I built a new car for myself to do the event in".
Of his trip to Barbados, Jenkins says: “I’m actually getting more and more excited now the car is finished and all the hard work is done. I've heard so much about the rally from the Weirs and Paul Willetts, I am really looking forward to it. I can't thank Rob Weir enough for letting me drive his brand-new Escort and I hope to repay his faith in me . . . and I hope the spectators will enjoy seeing the new car."
Strong local entry filling with island winners
As the entry dead-line draws closer, the local entry for Sol Rally Barbados has been filling steadily, with all but two island drivers who won their classes last year now showing in the on-line list on the event web site, rallybarbados.net.
In the four-wheel-drive classes, Sol RB17 Group A winner Avinash Chatrani (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI) is among the most recent entries with his co-driver now Andrew Skeete, along with last year’s winning GpN partnership of Mark Thompson and Kurt Seabra (Evo IX); they finished 13th and 14th overall respectively.
In the SuperModified classes, SM3 winner Justin Campbell, who finished ninth overall last year, is ready to defend his title with new co-driver Ayrton Bannister in the BMW M3, while Neil Corbin and Matthew Staffner (Toyota Starlet) might be hoping to add an even higher overall finish to their 12th place in Sol RB17 with another SM1 class win.
Greg Cozier and Natasha Farnum (Ford Escort RS), who won Historic 2 and finished 20th overall last year, look set to face one of the best-supported classes in this year’s event, with seven already confirmed. Also well-subscribed are the Clubman classes, with Stuart Garcia and Rasheed Smith (BMW 318ti Compact) looking to repeat their debut win in C2 and Jermin Pope, currently with no co-driver confirmed, aiming for a hat-trick of wins in C1 in his Honda Civic.
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.