3 more years: Petrol Giant backs SOL Rally Barbados into 2016
Former UK National Rally Champion Paul Bird will face the largest field of World Rally Cars ever assembled in the Caribbean when he returns to the region to defend his title in Sol Rally Barbados 2013 (June 1/2). Thirteen cars, up from the previous record of 11, are entered in the WRC classes on the provisional entry list of 98 crews, published by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) during a media conference earlier this week. Video Courtesy – Lovell Communications/246 News;-
Bird’s Ford Focus WRC08 will arrive in the island in the cargo hold of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 a few days before Scotiabank King of the Hill (May 26); Bird will be hoping to win both events, as he did last year, when he described the experience as “the hardest and probably the best I’ve ever driven since I started rallying.”
Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Barry Gale told the media assembled in the Peninsula Suite of the Hilton Hotel: “Sol Rally Barbados continues to attract unbelievable support from the island’s private sector, as well as various Government agencies, which allows the Barbados Rally Club to offer attractive packages to its overseas guests; this in turn creates healthy entry numbers, and further builds the excitement and hype that spectators are drawn to.”
There are 62 International drivers or co-drivers entered, one short of last year’s record number, 22 of whom are new to the event. The ‘Rally to Barbados’ promotional campaign run in association with the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) has again proved it’s worth, with the largest influx of newcomers being from Ireland, although three of the six first-time drivers are in fact expat Irish based in New York.
Gale continued: “We also continue to be blessed with massive television, print and electronic media exposure – all contributing to the sustainable growth and longevity of this wonderful event. None of it would be possible without our volunteers (that would be everyone who organises, co-ordinates, marshals or otherwise assists with the event) . . . so I take my hat off to all of them, and thank them sincerely.”
Title sponsor since 2008, the region’s largest independent oil company Sol was represented today by Barbados Country Manager, Ezra Prescod, who said: “Sol has been the proud title sponsor of Sol Rally Barbados now for six years . . . and we are happy to commit to another three years as lead sponsor of this event. Sol Rally Barbados has grown into one of the most anticipated events on the region’s sporting calendar and, as the leading regional petroleum company, we are happy to join with the Barbados Rally Club to bring this electrifying event to our customers and motor sport fans across the region once again.”
Sol is also sponsoring 12-time winner of the island’s premier event Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete‘s Subaru Impreza WRC S12 for a second season and has welcomed Neil Armstrong to the team, driving the rebranded Suzuki SX4 WRC. Both can be expected to be at the sharp end of the battle for supremacy, along with RB03 and ’07 winner Paul ‘Surfer’ Bourne (Focus WRC07), who won the first three events of the local season.
In addition to Bird, the overseas entry includes Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Focus WRC06), the first overseas winner in Barbados in 1998 and third last year, former UK National Champions Steve Perez (Focus WRC07) and Roger Duckworth (Impreza WRC S6), plus regular visitor Rob Swann in his UK-spec B13 Impreza, who finished fourth, sixth and seventh respectively in Sol RB12.
Gale also confirmed the route for Sol RB13, which promises competitors and spectators alike an entertaining weekend; there are 22 special stages, 11 each day. While some venues are familiar, others are less so, a major overhaul of the route creating what promises to be a more level playing field for local and overseas competitors.
Sol Rally Barbados 2013 (June 1/2) and Scotiabank King of the Hill (May 26) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007; title sponsors the Sol Group and Scotiabank. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, LIME, Automotive Art, Banks and Karcher; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Tourism Development Corporation, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Chefette, Field Insurance, Glacial Pure, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels, Stoute’s Car Rental and West Indies Rum Distillery.