JAMAICA’S PANTON IS RALLY CLUB CHAMPION DRIVER
Torrential rain tests the skills of drivers and organisers
Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton has become the first overseas driver to win the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) coveted Champion Driver title, following victory on the weekend’s BRC Winter Rally (November 24/25). Only half the field was on the overall finishers’ list, after competitors and organisers alike battled with the challenges presented by Saturday’s torrential rainstorms in the north of the island where the event was centred.
With co-driver Michael Fennell Jnr at his side, Panton (Ford Focus WRC06) completed the seven-round season with a perfect record of class wins, adding the WRC and 4wd Championships to his tally. Third and highest 2wd, heading outgoing Champion Driver Daryl Clarke and Russell Brancker (Honda Civic) home by 22 seconds, Barry Mayers and Ben Norris (Ford Fiesta) clinched the SuperModified 2 and 2wd Championship titles.
On Sunday morning, Rally Director Neil Barnard said: “That was one of the toughest rallies I have ever been involved in as an organiser. The rain Saturday afternoon could best be described as “biblical” and caught competitors on SS4 when it was live. I can’t say enough about the marshals, the RRT crews and all the support personnel for their performance and commitment in the most difficult conditions. I also must commend the competitors for their endurance and perseverance in what really was a tough event.”
Pre-weekend, the outcome of the final round of the BRC’s 2017 Driver’s and Class Championships was hard to call, with British visitors Rob Swann (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), who finished second in Sol Rally Barbados 2017, and double Sol RB winner Paul Bird (Focus WRC07) seeded behind Panton. Then, in Friday night’s two runs of the Vaucluse Raceway RallySprint track, a first-run spin for Swann and a second-run puncture for Bird left it finely poised ahead of Saturday’s 12 stages, Bird 2.5secs up on Panton, while Swann had work to do, sixth overall and more than 20secs behind.
Bird increased his lead on the first run through the five-kilometre Dark Hole to Spring Vale stage, but the skies opened as the field was passing through SS4 (Hangmans Hill to Lion Castle, 5kms), after which rain fell relentlessly. Bird’s clutch failed mid-way through the stage, which ended his rally and handed the lead to Panton; he would not lose it, winning all but one of the remaining stages, Swann quickest on SS4.
The heavy rainfall made the already notorious Dark Hole stage even more tricky than usual and two cars from the Barbados Historic Rally, which was running ahead of the main field, aquaplaned off into the same bridge wall; while Wayne Archer’s BMW 325 suffered only steering damage, English visitor Graham Samuel’s Ford Escort MkII became jammed between the wall and a power pole; the driver was slightly injured and the stage halted while emergency services dealt with the incident.
Other early casualties had been Andrew Mallalieu (Subaru Impreza N10), who led Group N after three stages, only to smack the tunnel wall at VRW on SS4, one stage before his sparring partner Mark Thompson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) also retired. SS5 also claimed Rhett Watson (BMW M3), who had been swapping top 2wd times with Mayers, despite having had little sleep on Friday night while welding back a suspension mounting point damaged when he clipped a tyre. When water invaded the cockpit and affected the electrics, he retired when running third overall and top 2wd.
With rain continuing to fall and many areas of standing water, the organisers elected to regroup. Barnard said: “We had to cancel the two subsequent runs of Hangmans Hill to Lion Castle because of safety concerns as a result of the conditions and, although we had the opportunity to return to Dark Hole for SS7, we opted not to, because of overall timing concerns; all this we explained at a Drivers Briefing Meeting. We restarted on schedule after the dinner halt and, with the rain and water having subsided, the night section ran smoothly, with no further cancellations, although we did have to shorten the start of Four Hills to Orange Hill because of conditions.”
By the time the remaining 21 cars in the main event followed the historics out of the Hopewell yard for the final six stages, the weather had abated. While there was less drama in the dark, Roger Hill, the only local runner in WRC in his Toyota Corolla, retired from third overall two stages from home, while perhaps the cruellest fate of all befell Logan Watson (M3): having survived all else to lie seventh overall and second in SM3 to Andrew Jones (Escort MkII), a power steering line burst on the final stage.
Only a non-finish could have cost Panton the Champion Driver title and, while the WRC class was under-subscribed at the weekend, a total of 124 points (of a potential 133) was enough. SM3 Champion Jones finishes second on 119, with Stuart Garcia (BMW 318ti Compact) crowning an impressive debut season in Clubman 2 with the class title and third overall with 118. Also worthy of note was the C1 tussle between eventual winner (by 15.70s, the smallest margin of the event) Jermin Pope (Honda Civic) and Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS), who swapped times back and forth throughout.
Fastest on every stage, Greg Cozier and Natasha Farnum (Ford Escort MkII RS) won the Barbados Historic Rally, also claiming victory in the Classic class. The German crew of Stefan Oberdorster and Olaf Heupel finished second overall in their Porsche 911, winning the Post-Historic class, while England’s Neil and Natalie Revington (Triumph TR5) picked up the Historic class win, fourth overall.
BRC Winter Rally – November 24/25
BRC Driver’s and Class Championships, round 5 Official results 1st Jeffrey Panton – JAM/Michael Fennell Jnr – JAM (WRC Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06), 36m 35.34s 2nd Rob Swann – ENG/Darren Garrod - WAL (WRC Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/Cygnet Plant Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), + 1m 35.47s 3rd Barry Mayers/Ben Norris (SM2 Chefette/Rubis/Digicel/DHL/Hankook/Illusion Graphics Ford Fiesta), + 3m 25.33s 4th Daryl Clarke/Russell Brancker (M2 Flow/Automotive Art/Amir’s Chicken/MQI Collision Repair/Valvoline/eCarib Classifieds Honda Civic), + 3m 48.12s 5th Andrew Jones/Lindsey Pilkington – ENG (SM3 Lucozade/Caribbean Powder Coating/AP Jones Pharmacy/Southern Surf Beach Apartments Ford Escort MkII), + 4m 03.92s 6th Paul Horton - TCI/Dwayne Forde (M2 Java Island/Sky Motorsports/H Racing Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX), + 5m 53.03s 7th Edward Corbin/Shareef Walcott (M1 Valvoline/Hilti/Express Imports Daihatsu Charmant), + 6m 28.29s 8th Stuart McChlery/Julian Goddard (SM2 Lubriguard/Gunk/Lenovo/PowerBass Ford Escort MkI), + 8m 20.16s 9th Martin Stockdale - ENG/Andrew Croney (C2 Vaucluse Raceway/Divi Southwinds Beach Resort BMW 318ti Compact), + 9m 30.20s 10th Stuart Garcia/Rasheed Smith (C2 Intelligent Defence Systems/Smiths Engineering Works/Four & Twenty Bakery/Tropical Sunset/Zaccios BMW 318ti Compact), + 9m 56.61s etc
WRC: 1st Panton/Fennell Jnr; 2nd Swann/Garrod; 3rd Roger Hill/Graham Gittens (Esso/Nassco/MotorMac/Max Meyer Toyota Corolla WRC), + 4m 10.66s Group N: no finishers SuperModified 3: 1st Jones/Pilkington, 40m 39.26s; 2nd Logan Watson/Barry Ward (Subzero Services Ltd/McEnearney Quality Inc/Sign Depot/The Unknown Entity/eCarib Classifieds in support of The Little Pink Gift Foundation BMW M3), + 2m 17.30s; 3rd David St Hill/Ian Grimes (The Beamer Specialist/Charles Docs Inc/Tropical Touch Investments/St Hill & Sons Garage/Solar & Wind Energy Solutions BMW M3), + 5m 00.27s
SM2: 1st Mayers/Norris, 40m 00.67s; 2nd McChlery/Goddard, + 4m 54.83s
SM1: no finishers
Modified 2: 1st Clarke/Brancker, 40m 23.46s; 2nd Horton/Forde, + 2m 04.91s
M1: 1st Corbin/Walcott, 43m 03.62s
Clubman 2: 1st Stockdale/Croney, 46m 05.54s; 2nd Garcia/Smith, + 26.49s; 3rd Allan Kinch/Allan Maynard (Jolly Roger/Printmax/Pirate’s Cove BMW 318ti Compact), + 1m 01.06s; etc
C1: 1st Jermin Pope/Aaron Kirton (Good Time Snacks/Uniform Factory Outlet/Glassesco/NKM Clothing Honda Civic), 48m 00.25s; 2nd Trevor Mapp/Jamal Brathwaite (Automotive Art/Sign Station/Ellesmere Quarries/JSB Motorsport Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS), + 15.70s
GpB: 1st Calvin Briggs/Kareem Gaskin (Massy Realty/Lucas Oils Ford Sierra), 48m 56.19s
Barbados Historic Rally - November 24/25 Official results 1st Greg Cozier/Natasha Farnum (Classic Barbados Historic Rally Carnival/Geest Line Ford Escort MkII RS), 41m 05.91s 2nd Stefan Oberdorster - GER/Olaf Heupel – GER (Post-Hist Porsche 911), + 3m 09.95s 3rd Pip Coulson - ENG/John McNichol - ENG (Classic Talbot Sunbeam Ti), + 5m 45.16s 4th Neil Revington - ENG/Natalie Revington - ENG (Hist Triumph TR5), + + 7m 03.92s 5th Alastair Caldwell – NZL/Rachel Christodoulou - ENG (Classic Space Station Peugeot 205 Rallye), + 11m 48.68s 6th Gavin Watson - ENG/Elizabeth Watson - ENG (Hist A Storage Solutions Ltd/Sussex Storage Ltd Borgward Isabella TS), + 19m 06.73s 7th John Griffiths - ENG/Olly Sanders - ENG (Post-Hist MGB GTV8 Sebring), + 20m 06.95s