Record start list for First Citizens King of the Hill

courtesy Barbados Rally Club/Gerrard Wilson, First Citizens King of the Hill 2023 attracted huge crowds in the south-eastern parishes, gathered here at the start of the uphill climb along Highway J to Society

A record 98 cars are listed on the running order published today (Thursday) for Sunday’s (May 26) First Citizens King of the Hill. The starters list has exceeded 90 only twice since 2008 - the previous record was 95 in KotH 2019 – and this year drivers and co-drivers from 12 nations are set to contest the final shakedown before BCIC Rally Barbados 2024 (May 31-June 2), the 34th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event.
  Sunday’s event returns to last year’s stage between Palmers in St Philip and Colleton in St John. From the start, which has been moved forward 200 yards from last year, the course heads towards Codrington, taking a sharp left up the steep hill that leads to Society Plantation Yard, where extensive work have been carried out to create spectator parking and viewing areas, along with the return of VIP hospitality for the first time since the pandemic, now dubbed The Rally Experience.
  A sharp right turn then carries crews into the more flowing second half of the stage, which has been extended by around 300 yards to include the tricky hairpin after Colleton Plantation. There will be four timed runs, starting at 11.00am, with the event expected to be finished by 5.00pm, after which there will be a Prizegiving at Society; Service Park for the day is Bushy Park Barbados.
  The results will be used to seed BCIC RB24, which starts with two floodlit special stages at Bushy Park the following Friday and will end at the St Philip facility on Sunday afternoon. Only three RB24 entries are absent, all overseas drivers from the FIA R5 class – Roger Duckworth (Ford Fiesta R5), Barry McKenna (Volkswagen Polo GTi R5) and Darryl Morris (Skoda Fabia R5); along with any others who either don’t compete or fail to set a time on Sunday, they will be seeded behind the last car in their class unless safety considerations dictate otherwise.
  The field will run in reverse order of performance on Sunday, from the less modified cars up to the high-performance state of the art four-wheel-drives, building the excitement through each run and throughout the day. The final driver to run will be Dane Skeete, winner of KotH in 2020 and RB19 & 22 in the Subaru Impreza WRC S12 in which his father Roger also won KotH and Rally Barbados each three times.
  Second seed is Stuart Maloney (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2), who won the BRC Shakedown Stages last month, finished third in RB23 and won the Barbados Motoring Federation’s (BMF) R5 Rally Championship in 2022. Back-to-back four-time KotH winner Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Fabia Rally2 evo) is the third seed, separated from fellow-countryman Kyle Gregg (Ford Fiesta Rally2) by the Fiesta R5 of Barbadian Josh Read, Gregg and Read having won one round each of this year’s renamed Barbados Rally2 Championship.
  A tight contest is also predicted in the two-wheel-drive category. Five-time KotH winner Roger Mayers (Toyota WR Starlet), brother Barry (Fiesta), who has won twice, and Rhett Watson (BMW M3), winner in 2017, are the likely front-runners, although Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII) can never be discounted. There’s a strong contingent of Escorts from overseas, too, led by Mull Rally prize-winner Scotland’s Stewart Morrison.
  Last year, New Zealander Hayden Paddon became only the fourth driver in 15 years to win King of the Hill and Rally Barbados in the same year. Panton achieved the feat three years in succession - 2016 thru’ 2018, although he tied for victory in KotH 2016 with Martinique’s Simon Jean-Joseph – while the late Paul Bird from the UK and local driver Roger Skeete did so once each in 2012 and 2011 respectively.
  Roger Mayers had to wait for his fifth 2wd KotH victory last year to go on and do the double, following his brother Barry (2018) and Sean Gill (2008). Neil Armstrong, however, has the best 2wd record, winning both KotH and Rally Barbados in 2011 and 2012, then going on to win KotH overall in a 4wd car in 2013.
  After the inaugural event in 2008 at Turners Hall in St Andrew, KotH moved venues, first to Stewarts Hill in St Philip, then Sailor Gully in St Peter, before finding a more permanent home on Hangmans Hill in St Thomas, where it ran from 2011 to 2018, apart from a switch to Luke Hill in St Lucy in 2013. After two years back at Stewarts Hill, the 2021 event was lost to the pandemic, then KotH 2022 ran in St Thomas before returning to the east of the island last year.

BCIC Rally Barbados (May 31-June 2) is a tarmac rally with around 20 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport, Works & Water Resources; the previous Sunday’s (May 26) First Citizens King of the Hill sprint, run under a similar arrangement, features four timed runs on a roughly four-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for the main event.

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