Maloney and Panton fight for R5 Rally Championship

courtesy Barbados Rally Club/Gerrard Wilson, Stuart Maloney (Skoda Fabia R5 evo) leads the R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens, ahead of the summer break

Reigning Champion Stuart Maloney of Barbados heads into the summer break leading the 2023 R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens, by a slender seven points from Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton following the season’s marquee events, First Citizens King of the Hill (June 4) and Sol Rally Barbados (June 9-11). With four scoring rounds run, the island’s first-ever national motor sport championship, administered by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF), is now on pause until round seven in early September.
Kiwis Hayden Paddon and John Kennard (Hyundai i20 R5) won both events, adding to their successes in the European Rally Championship and the NZ series, both of which they lead. Other non-scoring guest entries were Ireland’s Ollie O’Donovan (i20 R5) and the UK’s Roger Duckworth (Ford Fiesta R5), while Barbadian FIA Formula 2 driver Zane Maloney drove a third Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo from the family stable in Sol RB23.
The island’s premier event benefitted from a revised points structure this year, which heightened competition among the R5 regulars: Friday and Saturday counted as round five, Sunday as round six, with the make-up of each broadly similar, with a Bushy Park Barbados SuperSpecial and three loops of three closed-road stages. In addition to points scored for each round, there were bonus points for drivers who finished in the overall results; the top three scored 10, eight and six, with four each for all other finishers.
And there have been changes in the entry list, too, another catalyst to an increased level of competition. After a lacklustre 2022 in a Fiesta Rally2, Panton and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr have switched to the same generation of Fabia Rally2 evo campaigned by Maloney and Kristian Yearwood, which appears to have put the crews on a more level footing. And, while the Maloney Racing camp had Spanish former World Championship driver Xavier Pons on hand to offer guidance, Panton enjoyed some one-on-one sessions with Britain’s Chris Ingram, who won the 2019 European Championship in a similar car, although he left the island between KotH and Sol RB23.
Another to have switched from Ford to Skoda, albeit the earlier Fabia R5, is Britain’s Rob Swann; he has been very much on the pace in the car first brought to the island by fellow-countryman Tom Preston and driven since by Stuart Maloney, his nephew Zane – it is the car in which the teenager became the youngest winner of King of the Hill last year – and, for a short while, Suleman Esuf.
Bucking the trend, Jamaican all-rounder Kyle Gregg has joined the Championship this year with a new Fiesta Rally2, in which he enjoyed some coaching from eight-time Rally America Champion David Higgins before the car left the UK; Gregg’s father Gary won Rally Barbados 2006 in a Ford Focus WRC02 and they have a long association with the marque. With Barbadian co-driver Orry Hunte, Gregg made an instant impression in the Championship and sits in third place behind Maloney and Panton.
From a R5 Championship perspective, things started well for Panton at KotH, where he was consistently second R5 to Paddon, taking maximum points, with Gregg second. Stuart Maloney had a troubled day: after clipping a kerb on run 1, which required a repair at the end of the stage, a steering failure on run 2 meant he only had one clean run . . . and he made it count, finishing third, just retaining his championship lead.
At Sol RB23, honours were shared: Panton won round five and briefly took the R5 Rally Championship lead, but his advantage was short-lived. Maloney won round six, also copping the 10-point bonus as overall winner, giving him a near-perfect 57 from the weekend. While Panton claimed the maximum 25 on Saturday, a puncture dropped him from second to fourth on Sunday, giving him a weekend total of 51.
Maloney and Panton swapped stage wins back and forth Saturday morning, with Gregg winning the two either side of lunch, after recovering from early pop-off valve issues. Maloney then took a firmer grip on round five, only to lose 6secs - and the lead - to Panton on the day’s final stage, with Gregg third and Swann and Tom Woodburn fourth. After some overnight adjustments, Maloney was more confident on Sunday morning and, apart for Panton’s win on the day’s opening stage, was fastest on the remaining eight stages in the south-east corner of the island and took the round six win.
Panton also had a second Maloney to contend with, Stuart’s brother Mark, who had gone off into the bush on Saturday’s third stage; with his Fabia Rally2 evo repaired, he and co-driving son Justin had returned for Saturday’s third loop. Second on four Sunday stages, third on two, he was fastest on the Honda SuperSpecial that concluded the event at Bushy Park, to finish second to Stuart in round six, with Swann third. Roger Hill and Graham Gittens (Fabia R5) and last year’s R5 winner Josh Read (Fiesta R5), now with co-driver Mark Jordan, also set top three stage times on both days.
Paul Horton of the Turks & Caicos Rally Team, who has shown great promise this year in his newly-acquired Citroen C3 Rally2, ran off the road on Saturday and, while neither he nor co-driver Matt Edwards were injured, the car was not easily repairable, so they have slipped behind Andrew Mallalieu and Geoff Goddard in the standings.

R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens
Championship points after round 6 *
1st Stuart Maloney (BAR - Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) 85
2nd Jeff Panton (JAM - Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) 78
3rd Kyle Gregg (JAM - Ford Fiesta Rally2) 63
4th Roger Hill (BAR - Skoda Fabia R5) 56
5th Rob Swann (ENG - Skoda Fabia R5) 48
6th Mark Maloney (BAR - Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) 38
7th Josh Read (BAR - Ford Fiesta R5) 35
8th Andrew Mallalieu (BAR - Ford Fiesta R5) 33
9th Paul Horton (TCI - Citroen C3 Rally2) 15
* rounds 1 & 2 were non-scoring exhibition events

Remaining rounds:
Round 7: September 9 – Rally of the Sun & Stars (MCBI)
Round 8: October 21 – Double Header Speed Event (BPMSI)
Round 9: October 22 – Winter Rally (BRC)
Round 10: November 12 – ULTRAFEST ‘23 (tbc)

For media information only. No regulatory value.

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