Black Bess is back! The Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Autumn Gravel Sprint at the St Peter plantation on Sunday, October 2, returns motor sport to one of the island’s most popular and enduring loose-surface stages for the first time since 2006 . . . and Trevor Manning has not only been a prime mover behind the plan but also hopes to be back in action at one of his favourite venues.   The double-header, which comes at a crucial point in the hotly-contested Virgin Atlantic Driver’s and Class Championships, takes competitors – and spectators, who attended the final events there in their thousands – back to an iconic and challenging gravel course, which has provided many a dramatic moment, all played out against a scenic backdrop, high in the north of the island.   BRC Competition Secretary Neil Corbin says: “We believe that the chosen course will be entertaining for both drivers and spectators. The stage has not been used in some time, due to the land development in the area, and I was quite sure that we would never see another event in this location . . . however, thanks to the efforts of Trevor Manning, we have gained permission to use Black Bess once again.”   Manning, who won two of the six most recent events there between 2002 & ’06, added: “It is going to be amazing for spectators, they’ll be able to see almost the whole course. The stage is very different, as many of the roads are no longer there; it is about three kilometres. It could have been longer, but we didn’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, and some of the tracks would have needed patching, and with the weather as it is, it could have been a handful. What we have will be real good for competitors, though, mostly hard-packed gravel which is very smooth.”   As for returning to action with his Ford Escort WRC, Manning said: “Once my car allows me to, I’ll be there. We’ve been working some long hours on it, and all of what didn’t work now does. We have some electrical issues, more than anything else, but I’m really hoping for the best.”   ‘Big crowds witness the farewell to Black Bess’ was the headline over media coverage of the BRC Stage Rally in October 2004, which looked set to bring the curtain down on around three decades of competition at the site. After morning stages at Hangman's Hill, the crowds at Black Bess saw Roger Hill and Eric Allamby (Toyota Celica GT4) emerge victorious; Barry Gale/Ryan Rodriguez (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI) and Sean Dowding/Jason Cozier (Evo V) finished second and third, with Sean Gill/Michael Cummins (Suzuki Ignis) the highest-placed two-wheel-drive crew.   That would not be the end, however. With delays to the proposed development, the BRC twice returned to Black Bess: in February 2005, Manning (Evo VIII) beat Roger Mayers (Ford Focus WRC) by a margin of 1.5 seconds in another Gravel Sprint, with Hill third and Gill the top two-wheel-drive runner for the fourth straight event at the venue. Mayers is another double-winner at Black Bess, in November 2002 and September 2003 in his Escort WRC.   The 2006 season started with another gravel sprint, which was run to rally rules, although without co-drivers; overall, the top three were Paul Bourne (Subaru Impreza WRC S9), Gale (Evo VI) and Harold Morley (S9), while an intense two-wheel-drive battle was won by Adrian Linton (Vauxhall Astra GSi) from Mark Hamilton (Ford Escort MkII) by just 1.1 seconds after the six runs.   Entries for the BRC Autumn Gravel Sprint are open at Motorsport Services in Haggatt Hall, and will close at 12.00pm next Thursday (September 29). Competitors are expected to arrive at Black Bess by 7.30am on Sunday, October 2, with the event slated for a 9.15am start. Service is planned for the traditional area on the grass and under the trees on the approach to Mangrove Plantation.   There will be one practice run and three timed runs in the first direction, with a one-hour break for lunch, after which the course will be reversed; there will again be one practice run and three timed runs. Competitors will have the chance to drive through the course twice prior to the start of the event, although those who arrive late may not be able to take advantage of the drive-through.   For further media information: e-mail - web sites:;


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