IRISH DRIVER OF THE YEAR FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS
One of Northern Ireland’s most flamboyant – and successful – rear-wheel-drive exponents, Frank Kelly, will rally in the Caribbean twice in 2014, to experience both gravel and tarmac events. Tomorrow (Saturday), he flies south to prepare for the flowing loose-surface stages of Rally Trinidad the following weekend, and will return just a few weeks later to compete in the region’s biggest annual motor sport international, Sol Rally Barbados.
The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is this year celebrating the 25th running of its premier event, which began as the International All-Stage Rally in 1990; it is scheduled for May 30-June 1, with Scotiabank King of the Hill and Simpson Motors Scrutineering the previous weekend (May 24/25).
An alarm and security engineer from Dungannon in County Tyrone, Kelly started rallying in 1993 in a Ford Fiesta, which came to a violent end in the Mid Antrim Forest Rally in 2001, which Kelly remembers as: “A major accident. I had a broken collar bone and the Fiesta was a complete write-off, beyond repair.”
Since switching to Escorts, he has won a string of titles in Ireland, Scotland and across the UK on both gravel and tarmac, including the BTRDA Silver Star Championship in 2008, the UK’s most prestigious title for two-wheel-drive cars. In the past two years, having concentrated on rallying at home, he has twice won the Carlow Car Club’s MkII Challenge, and was the overall winner of the 2012 Todds Leap Ulster National Rally, beating a number of 4wd cars in what he considers one of the best drives of his career.
In 2012, he also won the MkII and 2wd titles in Ireland’s Dunlop National Rally Championship, and was named British Motorsport Marshals Club (BMMC) Driver of the Year at last year’s Association of Northern Ireland Car Club’s Prizegiving, an award presented by the body of marshals to the driver who has entertained them most.
Since 2008, Kelly has campaigned the Group 4 Ford Escort MkII, ‘Baby Blue’, which he will drive in Trinidad and Barbados; powered by a 2.5-litre 310bhp engine, and built and prepared by Kelly himself, it is backed by Bathshack.com, Kumho Tyres, Campbell Contracts, DMS Ireland, Charlie McEnery Motors and Panta Fuel. Co-driver Liam Brennan, aka ‘Brother Brennan’, has shared many of Kelly’s successes in recent years; he owns a vehicle bodyshop in Cork in the Republic of Ireland.
Born on Christmas Day, Kelly’s nickname ‘The Reindeer’ might seem an obvious choice, but that is not the reason, as Kelly explains: “Reindeer has been associated with myself and two other Irish drivers, Adrian Hetherington and Seamus O'Connell, for quite some time when we used to do battle for 2wd honours in the forests. Most of my rally career has been on gravel, hence the nickname, and nothing to do with my date of birth at all.”
Annual Tech Scrutineering launches domestic season
The domestic rally and speed event season kicks off in Barbados tomorrow (Saturday) with a revival of ‘Annual Tech’ Scrutineering, which in past years allowed eager fans, starved of motor sport over the winter, their first chance to see who would drive what for the new season. Located in the northern car park of Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St Michael, the event will run from 2.00pm until 6.00pm.
The Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s (MCBI) Spring Blaze 14 on Sunday (March 23) offers the first high-speed action for the year with a double-header tarmac sprint from Tappy Pond to Bonwell, St Joseph, slated for a noon start; it is a joint event with the Barbados Rally Club (BRC), whose members will score points towards their eight-round Championship in the first part only.
Saturday’s Annual Tech is mandatory for drivers competing on Sunday, but is also open to members of the Barbados Association of Dragsters & Drifters (BADD) and the Barbados Auto Racing League (BARL), as the clubs share the same scrutineering team.
Highlights of approaching 30 cars expected to assemble will include the debut of Stuart Maloney’s recently-acquired Peugeot 306 Maxi; the ex-works Peugeot Sport Italy car, formerly campaigned by Italian and European Rally Champion Renato Travaglia, arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport on last Saturday’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747 from the UK.
BRC Secretary Jamal Brathwaite said: “This is an excellent opportunity for competitors to showcase their vehicles and any sponsor-specific items, so drivers are cordially asked to try to arrive early and stick around after their vehicles have been checked so the public can view the vehicles and interact with the drivers.”
Brathwaite concluded: “We must also thank the Sky Mall team for their eagerness in offering their location for the event.”
Sol Rally Barbados and Scotiabank King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 55th Anniversary in 2012; Sol RB14 is the 25th running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the seventh year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.
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