Photo credit Andy Crayford/, Photo credit Andy Crayford/
Photo credit Andy Crayford/, Photo credit Andy Crayford/

The Geest Line freighter Benguela Stream set sail from Portsmouth on the English south coast late on Tuesday (April 26) after two nights in port exchanging fruit and other produce from around the Caribbean for a record shipment of 32 rally cars bound for the region’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol Rally Barbados . . . and local fans will be happy to know that 13 of those cars are Ford Escort MkIIs.

  After a 10-day trans-Atlantic voyage, the ship will dock at the Bridgetown Port to off-load its precious cargo of competition vehicles. They will compete against nearly 60 regional crews in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event on June 3-5, after Simpson Motors Scrutineering and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend.

  With the MkII Escort a fan favourite in Barbados, the final batch of confirmed names will add to the growing anticipation among the island’s spectator base. Pete Rayner, whose flamboyant driving style earned instant kudos stageside on his first visit last year, returns with a near-new Perry Road Autos Escort: “After finishing fifth overall with a class win on the Jersey Rally in October, we decided to give the car a quick tidy up. This turned into stripping it completely, sand-blasting the shell, re-spray and full re-prep.” Rayner and daughter Maria, who co-drives again this year, also contributed to a first-time Special Stage Extra programme, which covered Sol RB15 on British television.

  Rayner’s son Aaron co-drove for Steve Finch in Sol RB15 in another MkII, finishing second in SuperModified 10, behind Scottish regular Allan Mackay (Anglia WRC) and ahead of Dick Mauger (MkII). Mackay’s entry was announced in October last year, while Finch and Mauger are also now confirmed, Finch with Stanley Graham as co-driver, Mauger joined in the Major Farm Services MkII by New Zealand’s Andrew Smith.

  Tsalta Motorsport from Wales is making a welcome return, with company boss Gary Thomas, a former class-winner in Barbados, again co-driven by wife Linda; the team’s second car will be driven by newcomer Gareth Richards, who will have Aled Lloyd-Jones alongside, who sat in the same car with Philip Ralphs two years ago.

  As happens every year, a group of Sol RB regulars travelled to Portsmouth to assist in loading the cars on Monday, led by Martin Stockdale, whose record of 16 consecutive trips to compete in Barbados is unlikely to be broken. Stockdale was joined by fellow Worksop & District Motor Club members Ray Clough, Hugh & Shirley Peat, Nick Taylor and Stuart Tomlinson, while Andrew Costin-Hurley and wife Melissa (team photographer), Dick Mauger (team tow truck) and Simon Wallis completed the team. Sol RB Chairman Mark Hamilton said: “I cannot quite find the right words to thank those guys who give up their time every year to ensure that our overseas entries are looked after as they are loaded – rally cars are strange beasts, and people don’t drive them regularly need guidance on how to handle them. The relationships they have built up with the guys on the dock play a huge part in building confidence in our event.”

Armstrong eager to face “vertical learning curve” in first rwd outing

Five-time Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Group Champion Neil Armstrong has set himself a new challenge for Sol Rally Barbados 2016 . . . his first-ever competition in a rear-wheel-drive car. BRC Rookie of the Year in 2002, he won four-wheel-drive titles in Group N and Group A twice each in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI from 2006 to ’09, before winning SuperModified 10 in the infamous ‘Pit Bull’ Toyota Starlet.

  This year, he will drive a Ford Escort MkII built by CA1 Sport, based in Cumbria in the north of England; with a 330hp 2.5-litre Millington Diamond Series II engine, Tractive sequential gearbox with paddle shift and Rieger dampers, it promises to be a force in the ultra-competitive SuperModified 2.

  CA1 Sport team boss Martin Wilkinson is already familiar with island rallying, having run Paul Bourne’s Ford Focus WRC07 in 2014, which is when Armstrong made the connection. Wilkinson says: “I’m very much looking forward to the trip, as Barbados is such a nice place to be. The rally itself is a really sociable event, but there is serious competition. I’m confident the Escort should do quite well.”

  With a new engine needed for the Pit Bull, Armstrong was seeking options and is looking forward to the challenge: “I’m very excited about it, as I have never competed in a rwd car, so the learning curve will be vertical . . . but I can't wait for the adventure! My sponsors were still keen on backing me for the rally, then Martin tailored a workable package for me with the support of Rubis and GUNK, with Virgin Atlantic joining in to freight the car here. Each sponsor plays a role and, if any one piece had dropped out, then the deal would have fallen apart . . . so a huge thank-you to them all.”


Sol Rally Barbados is a tarmac rally, with 24 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport & Works; Sol RB16 and Flow King of the Hill are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Sol RB16 marks the ninth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.



© 2023