New cars, new drivers for the FIA R5 class of 2023

There will be more Skoda Fabias on the R5 trail in Barbados this year

New cars, new drivers and new car-driver combinations are set to change the face of the FIA R5 class in Barbados in 2023. With the season’s first closed road events scheduled for this weekend (March 18/19), island fans will witness the first of those changes as Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Britain’s Rob Swann will be seen in action for the first time in Skoda Fabias, replacing the Ford Fiestas they campaigned last season.
  Ahead of the new season’s curtain-raisers, it has also been confirmed that the R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens, will continue for a second season. Changes to the structure of the island’s first national motor sport championship, administered by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF), include a more compact calendar and a revised points system.
  This weekend’s two events appear on the provisional R5 Championship calendar as non-scoring ‘exhibition’ events, with the Championship proper now starting next month. The Motoring Club Barbados Inc (MCBI) starts its 2023 season tomorrow (Saturday) with the Spring Blaze '23 ‘Saturday Night Lights’ edition, scheduled to start at 4.00pm. The six-kilometre stage from Featherbed Lane to Drax Hall passes the popular viewing points at Cliff Plantation, the Kendal Duck Pond and Woodland in St John and St George; there will be four timed runs in one direction, with the event expected to finish by 8.00pm.
  On Sunday, the Vaucluse Raceway Motorsport Club (VRMSC) runs the Andrew Phillips Memorial Stages, named for the legendary all-rounder on racetrack, rally stage and polo field, whose energy and imaginative ideas had a huge impact on motor sport from the 1970s until his untimely death in 1996. The stage distance is a little over 7.5 kilometres, running from Hangman Hill, through VRW to Dukes in St Thomas; the first four stages will run uphill, with stages five to eight running downhill from Dukes.
  Panton and Swann have travelled to support island motor sport for many years, Panton a five-time winner of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event, Rally Barbados, and both of them former BRC 4wd Champions; their 2022 campaigns, however, were less rewarding, Panton failing to complete the season and Swann’s best result his third-place finish in Sol RB22, a fourth podium in five events. Panton has a new-build Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, which he has driven only once a few weeks ago, while Swann’s car is well-known, although he also has limited seat time in it; campaigned here first by the UK’s Tom Preston, who finished ninth overall and won Group A in Sol RB18, the Fabia was Stuart Maloney’s first R5 car, before it was sold to Suleman Esuf, then Swann.
  Thus far, only Fabias and Fiestas have played a part in R5 in the island, but Turks & Caicos Rally Team member Paul Horton, who finished sixth in the R5 Championship last year, has acquired a Citroen C3 Rally2, which he is rallying in Ireland this weekend. When the car returns to Barbados, it will add a third manufacturer, while confirmation last month that New Zealand’s most successful driver Hayden Paddon is to enter Rally Barbados 2023 with his long-term co-driver John Kennard in a Hyundai i20 R5 brings the manufacturer count to four.
  Twelve drivers scored points in the inaugural championship, while competitors from the UK joined the R5 Championship regulars and Guest Driver Zane Maloney to create a record-breaking entry of 15 cars in the FIA R5 class in Sol Rally Barbados 2022. There was a clear Champion in Stuart Maloney (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo); with co-driver Kristian Yearwood he won 12 of the 15 rounds and even recovered from losing a healthy early season lead after failing to finish Sol RB23. A tie-break was necessary to settle second place, however: Josh Read got the nod after two victories including the high-scoring RB22 with co-driver Barry Ward in the ex-Sol Esuf Ford Fiesta R5, with Roger Hill, one of only three drivers to compete in all 15 rounds, and co-driver Graham Gittens, having to settle for third in their Fabia R5.
  The R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens, is administered by the BMF, with Vice-President David Williams as R5 Rally Championship Manager, Adrian Linton as Technical Delegate and Warren Gollop as Chairman of the Stewards to deal specifically with R5 Rally Championship matters. The Be Media Group Inc continues as Promoter, with Be Media Director James Skinner and Championship Commercial Director Jeremy Foster also responsible for the extensive social media coverage of events. The e-sports element is once again managed by Caribbean Sim Motorsport.

R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens
Provisional Calendar 2023

March 18 – * Spring Blaze ’23 (MCBI)
March 19 – * Andrew Phillips Memorial Stages (VRMSC)
April 23 – Shakedown Stages (BRC)
June 4 – King of the Hill (BRC)
June 9-11 – Rally Barbados (BRC)
September 9 – Rally of the Sun & Stars (MCBI)
October 21 – Double Header Speed Event (BPMSI)
October 22 – Winter Rally (BRC)
November 12 – ULTRAFEST ‘23 (BPMSI)
* ‘exhibition’ events, with no R5 Championship points awarded

Key to abbreviations of Organising Clubs: MCBI – Motoring Club Barbados Inc; BPMSI – Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc; BRC - Barbados Rally Club; VRMSC – Vaucluse Raceway Motorsports Club

For media information only. No regulatory value.

For further information:
please contact BMF Vice-President, David Williams - e-mail:
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