UPGRADES IN THE PIPELINE FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS
The Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) long-term plans to upgrade the timing and results system for Sol Rally Barbados and its other championship events moved a step closer to fruition last week. Club PRO Neil Barnard visited Wales Rally GB, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, to check out the RallySafe system, developed in Australia and deployed on all WRC events, which provides a comprehensive rally management system, with live timing and vehicle tracking.
Sol RB19 – the 30th edition of the BRC’s premier event - will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show (May 25) and Flow King of the Hill (May 26) the previous weekend. The event has evolved from small beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally of 1990 into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International and a key National Event on the island’s sports-tourism calendar.
On his return to the island, Barnard said: “We have further work to do in the coming months, as the final decision will obviously depend on cost, as well as a few technical checks for things like satellite coverage. However, I am now far more optimistic, having met with them and discussed a number of options in respect of leasing and purchase.”
Although he was back in Barbados before WRGB started, Barnard visited the Rally Village at the Deesside Industrial Park just outside Chester, where Rally HQ was housed in the Conference Centre of Toyota’s Engine Manufacturing Plant. He said: “One of RallySafe’s principals and founders Stephen Sims, his son Jobe and Jono Rogers ran through all of the components with me: the software - timing, rally management and tracking - the in-car units, plus the timing beam equipment and the hand-held tablets used by the marshals. It’s quite phenomenal and very easy to use, and of course the entire thing is live. So all timing is live, as well as the vehicle tracking.”
After his meeting with RallySafe, Barnard was given a tour of Rally Control by Iain Campbell, WRGB Clerk of the Course and Manager of the British Rally Championship, the final two rounds of which were run concurrently with WRGB. Barnard added: “It was a short but extraordinarily valuable meeting. From an organiser’s perspective, he told me how much the RallySafe system has enhanced how they run the event. They do it primarily from Rally Control, using the rally management and tracking system, and Iain said that they have really only scratched the surface of what the system can do. In addition to the flow of info from the competing cars to timing teams, Rally Control and so forth, there is scope for Rally Control to actually send instructions or alerts to competitors during the rally.”
Quite by chance, Barnard ran into back-to-back Sol RB winners (2008-09) Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle at Manchester Airport on his return journey: “I quizzed Paul about the system as, from a co-driver’s perspective, he would have used it earlier in the year. He had nothing but praise.”
Stan Graham, who has competed in the island for the past three years as co-driver to Steve Finch and Dick Mauger, is also very enthusiastic about the RallySafe system. An experienced organiser in the UK and Secretary of Chelmsford Motor Club, which organised Corbeau Seats Rally Clacton and Tendring in April, the UK’s first-ever closed road rally, he and fellow Club members ran the Arrival, Flying Finish and Stop on the Penmachno, Dyfi and Elsi stages of WRGB. He said: “What an improvement on the old system! A few small tweaks like repeaters between Flying Finish and Stop to keep a good signal and Stop becomes very easy, even in a panic.”
Sol RB19 a hot topic at Wales Rally GB
The night before Wales Rally GB, Sol Rally Barbados was a recurring topic at the annual Rally Forum. This charity fund-raiser was staged this year at Chester Racecourse, with Nicky Grist, former co-driver to World Champions Juha Kankunnen and the late Colin McRae, the star guest. The evening’s MC was 1996 British Champion co-driver Howard Davies – now a regular visitor to Sol RB – while the panel included co-driver Darren Garrod, who has twice finished second in Barbados with Rob Swann, and Kevin Furber, who drove in the first edition of the BRC’s premier event in 1990, all of whom had positive things to say about the event and the island. Garrod went on to clinch the British Rally Championship crown alongside Matt Edwards in a Ford Fiesta R5, adding his home co-driver’s title to those previously won in Canada and China (twice).
The event was also a hot topic in the Rally Village in Deesside, where the WRC teams were housed alongside competitors in the WRGB National Rally, won last year by Tom Preston, who went on to win Group A, ninth overall, in Sol RB18 in his Skoda Fabia R5. Preston rolled out of contention on the second stage this year, having won the first by two seconds, leaving Scotland’s Andrew Gallacher (Ford Focus WRC) and John Wink (Hyundai i20 R5) to scrap for victory, recently-crowned Scottish Champion Gallacher prevailing. Barbados regular Roger Duckworth finished third, just eight seconds adrift of Wink, despite his Subaru Impreza WRC S6 losing sixth gear on Friday, then fifth on Saturday; he even managed to win Friday’s final stage and the last two on Saturday.
On Tuesday (October 9), Andrew Jones and Lindsey Pilkington were guests at Clitheroe & District Motor Club’s monthly club night in the Lancashire village of Waddington, invited by another island regular, Nigel Worswick. Lindsey said: “It started off as a Q & A, but then Andrew got going and reeled off a few of his best stories; he certainly did a good job of promoting Sol Rally Barbados, and there were a few shots of rum on hand to help the evening along. There were a lot of laughs!”
Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB19 marks the 12th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fourth by communications provider Flow.
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