STRONG LOCAL SUPPORT FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS

Entries posted on the official web site (www.rallybarbados.net) for Sol Rally Barbados (June 1/2), the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, passed 80 this week . . . and there is strong support for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event from local crews, particularly those in the core Modified and SuperModified classes.   More than two-thirds of local entries so far received fall into those categories, where nearly all will also face some competition from either International or regional competitors. While most names are familiar, the off-season shake-up of equipment, some re-developed, some new to the island and some switching classes, promises a whole new look to the island’s rallying landscape in 2013.   The BRC reviews its regulations every three years, taking into account trends in competitor support levels, as well as changes on the International stage . . . and the new cycle starts this year. The Modified and SuperModified rules remain much the same, although the minimum weight limits in Modified have been increased by 20kgs, while the top class in SuperModified has been split into two, with a new division at 2.5 litres.   Two-time SM11, also 2012 BRC two-wheel-drive Champion Logan Watson leads the new class, SM12, in his BMW M3, where the competition will include brother Rhett - he will use the team’s other M3, rather than share – and Justin Campbell (M3), back in Sol RB for the first time since 2010, when he finished 18th overall and third in SM11.   Dane Skeete, son of Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete, the most successful driver in the history of the island’s premier event, is also back; winner of M6 and an impressive 14th overall in Sol RB11 in a Peugeot 206, Skeete Jnr’s mount for 2013 is yet to be confirmed, but he has entered in SM11.   While Neil Armstrong, SM10 winner for the past two years and highest-placed 2wd finisher overall for the past three, is not yet entered, the class still looks highly competitive. Overall winner of RB05 in his self-built Ford Focus, Roger Mayers and brother Barry – they returned to rallying in 2010 after a three-year break - have stepped up from SM9 in their WR Starlet, which will pit them against Josh Read (Toyota Starlet) and Ian Warren (Suzuki Swift), winners of 10 BRC class championships between them in recent years, Read also the Overall Champion Driver in 2007.   There are 12 local entries out of 16 in M7, comfortably the best-subscribed class, based on entries posted so far, including reigning M7 Champion Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic) and former title-holders Eddie Corbin (Toyota Corolla RunX) and Jeremy Sisnett (Ford Fiesta ST), which suggests a robust defence of island honour can be expected there, too. Third consecutive podium as Swann prepares for June Britain’s Rob Swann has continued his build-up to Sol RB13 with second place in last weekend’s (January 26/27) K & R Mitsubishi Stages Rally, a tarmac event around the tight confines of the Brean Leisure Park in England’s south-west county of Somerset. It was the third podium finish in a row of his winter campaign - last November, he finished third and class-winner on the Tempest Rally, then claimed his second consecutive victory on the Premier Rally, both loose-surface events.   He was co-driven in the Waves Hotel and Spa/Cygnet Plant Ltd/Revolution Wheels/Wacker Neuson Subaru Impreza for his first single-venue rally by Aled Edwards, as regular co-driver Darren Garrod was unavailable. Welshman Edwards is now also a Barbados regular, having co-driven for Harold Morley, then Andrew Mallalieu.   With grip at a premium for the more powerful cars on the slippery early tests, Swann was ninth after the first two stages. He soon started to climb up the order, however, fourth after stage four, third by the end of Saturday’s six stages . . . and there he stayed, until a hail storm hit the venue just as the first cars started Sunday’s penultimate stage, catching many out as the tarmac changed from dry to fully wet!   Leaders Peter Lloyd and Carl Sorensen (Impreza WRC S14) struggled for grip on dry tyres, then limped out of the stage into retirement with a blown turbo, handing Steve and Yvonne Furzeland (Impreza WRC S12) the lead. They were also on the wrong tyres, having a number of spins but, although Swan cut the gap to Furzeland by nearly 30 seconds with one stage to go, he had to settle for second.   Afterwards, he said: “We had a great time on our first visit to Brean, and we came away with a great result . . . beaten only by the very same car we hired for Rally Barbados in 2011, when I finished fifth, my best result there.” Sol Rally Barbados (June 1/2) and Scotiabank King of the Hill (May 26) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB13 is the 24th running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the sixth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company. For further media information: e-mail - robin@bradfax.com web sites: www.rallybarbados.net; www.barbadosrallyclub.com

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