PANTON WINS BRC SHAKEDOWN STAGES: “Substitute” Mayers top two-wheel-drive

Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell Jnr laid down a marker for next month’s LIME King of the Hill and Sol Rally Barbados, with victory in yesterday’s (April 19) Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Shakedown Stages. In the Rubis / Total / Sandals Barbados Ford Focus WRC06, they finished more than 18 seconds up on Trinidad’s John Powell, with Roger Skeete third, having fought back after early problems.

Deputising for brother Roger, who has been suffering from a severe bout of tonsillitis, Barry Mayers won the battle for two-wheel-drive honours, finishing fifth overall in the Chefette / Digicel / Sol / Hankook / Illusion Graphics WR Starlet, heading home Rhett Watson, who enjoyed a day-long battle with the returning Neil Armstrong.

(FILE IMAGE) Panton won the first run from Four Hills to Orange Hill, with Mayers an impressive second - "I nearly binned it a few corners in to SS1", he said - ahead of Skeete (Sol / LIME / Automotive Art / Simpson Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12), who lost around seven seconds to the leader when a tyre burst in a pothole; lone WRC-2 runner Roger Hill (Nassco / Esso / Pennzoil / MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC) was fourth, ahead of Powell (Intercontinental Shipping / Trinidad Mooring & Launch Services Focus WRC08).

(FILE IMAGE) Panton won the first run from Four Hills to Orange Hill, with Mayers an impressive second – “I nearly binned it a few corners in to SS1”, he said – ahead of Skeete (Sol / LIME / Automotive Art / Simpson Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12), who lost around seven seconds to the leader when a tyre burst in a pothole; lone WRC-2 runner Roger Hill (Nassco / Esso / Pennzoil / MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC) was fourth, ahead of Powell (Intercontinental Shipping / Trinidad Mooring & Launch Services Focus WRC08).

The Jamaicans won all five morning stages – Lamberts to Pickerings was the other venue – to lead Powell by nearly 13secs at lunch, with Skeete down in fifth, after also collecting a 25secs early arrival penalty. Skeete won four of the afternoon’s five reversed stages on his way to third place, Panton fastest on SS10 – just four-tenths covered his Focus, Powell and Skeete on the final stage, a good omen for LIME KotH and Sol RB15.

Panton said: “The plan was to get the seat time in. We weren’t looking for a win, but it was good to get it as we head towards Sol Rally Barbados. Like most others, we ran on old tyres, which gave some really hairy moments, but we drove accordingly.”

From Skeete’s perspective, the event was a vital chance to check out persistent launch issues: “After the rebuild, the car refused to launch or even go into launch sequence. We pulled the box on Saturday and discovered a leak from the centre differential, which when rectified cured the launch issues instantly. Everything else is working perfectly.”

Mayers was fastest 2wd on all but one of the day’s stages, winning the category by 26secs; Watson (Chefette /Power King / Gliptone / Stihl / The Unknown Entity in support of Little Pink Gift BMW M3) was the other stage winner, as he and Armstrong (Rubis / Chefette / Hankook / Nassco / GUNK Starlet) swapped times back and forth.

Watson said: “We figured we could be fast out of the box, but spoiled it with an overshoot at The Rock on SS1. However, we recovered and had a nice battle during the day with Neil.” Armstrong added: “I felt good in the car and was shaking off the rust.”

Mayers won SuperModified 10, saying: “I’m the substitute driver. Any times I did, Roger could have gone two seconds faster”; Josh Read (Stihl / Gliptone / Sprite / Hankook / Weetabix / Chutney’s / Urban Kitchen / Royal Purple / Cell Hut / EZone Starlet) retired on SS1 with clutch problems and Cliff Roett (Nassco / Paulo’s Churrasco Restaurant / Roett’s Garage Starlet) two stages later.

Watson was the only driver in SM12 to complete the distance; Justin Campbell (Hilton Barbados / Itstaboo.com / Biz Needz / Dream Solutions / Castrol Racing / Acton Finance M3) did enough to score class points under the two-thirds rule, but Stan Hartling (suspension damage) and David St Hill (radiator) were out early.

The top 10 was completed by class-winners Andrew Jones (SM11 Ford Escort MkII), Andrew Mallalieu (Group N Subaru Impreza N10) and Daryl Clarke (Modified 7 Honda Civic). Jones led SM11 all day, although Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) set a string of top 10 times after losing more than 1min on SS1, the car eventually heading home on a wrecker after an ‘off’ mid-afternoon.

In Group N, Jamaica’s Kyle Gregg finished second in his first outing on tarmac in his Evo IX, finishing just 10secs ahead of David Coelho, using his ex-Geoff Noel Evo IX for the first time, another good omen for next month’s events.

Among the day’s other casualties – 11 of 33 starters failed to finish – were Jamal Brathwaite (M7 Honda Civic Type-R), who struggled all day with gearbox problems, and Neil Corbin (M6 Starlet), an impressive 10th at lunchtime. When a wiring issue was then discovered that could not be resolved, he retired, allowing Paul Innis (Civic) to claim his first class win. Corbin spoke for everyone who had issues yesterday when he said: “It’s better to happen at Shakedown than Rally Barbados! I had a great morning though!”

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