FINAL COUNTDOWN STARTS FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS
The final countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2015 (May 29-31), which marks the 25th Anniversary of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, is finally under way. With three weeks to go before Simpson Motors Scrutineering (May 23) and LIME King of the Hill (May 24), activity is stepping up across all aspects of the event’s organisation.
The Bridgetown Port is also a hive of activity this weekend, as a group of volunteers headed by Rally Office Manager Jeanne Crawford assist in the safe unloading of a record number of overseas entries. The Geest Line freighter Klipper Stream, which set sail from Portsmouth in the UK on April 22, docked this morning (Saturday) with its cargo of more than 30 rally cars heading for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International.
The two Peugeots of Kiwi drivers Mike Marshall and son Nick arrived in a container earlier this week after the 12,000-kilometre voyage from New Zealand, while an inter-island freighter is scheduled to have delivered a new regional entry, the Conseil General de la Guadeloupe-supported Ford Escort Cosworth of Pierre Negre and Gilles Gaussan.
Along with confirmation of Turks & Caicos-based Canadian Stan Hartling’s Bambarra Rum BMW M3, Negre’s arrival brings to eight the number of regional entries, the highest for five years. Hartling, who has been competing in the BRC’s Championship events this year, is co-driven by Heath Hazell, former co-driver to local BMW ace Jonathan Still.
Negre has been rallying for 20 years, initially in an Alfa Romeo GTV6, before switching to a Ford Sierra and then the Escort Cosworth. Guadeloupe Champion in 1994 and ’96, he has won the island’s Rallye des Grand Fonds more than 10 times, most recently with a hat-trick in 2011 to ’13, and has also competed on the French mainland.
The last two UK entries to be confirmed are the Ford Escort Mk IIs of Peter Rayner and Steve Firth, from Braintree and Chelmsford in Essex respectively, and both island newbies. Rayner heard about Sol Rally Barbados from friends Dick Mauger and Rob Swann, whose Escort and Subaru Impreza WRC S11 are also on the Klipper Stream.
An Escort campaigner for more than 25 years, Rayner’s car is prepared by Perry Road Autos and has support from his long-time sponsor, Tamdown Group; his co-driver will be Richard Bonner. Firth, who will have Rayner’s son Aaron as his co-driver, said: “I haven’t actually rallied for six years, and it was always for fun. I’m looking forward to this, enough though I generally prefer the loose or forests to tarmac.”
Circuit of Ireland marshals confirmed for prize trip
Two volunteers who marshalled at last month’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally will shortly be jetting off to Sol Rally Barbados 2015 for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, courtesy of the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) and the island’s private sector Tourism Development Corporation; the prize includes return flights from London Gatwick on Virgin Atlantic Airways, accommodation and shared rental car for the duration.
Connolly said: “I was gobsmacked. I was doing some work on the computer for another rally, when I received the call from Raymond. He told me I’d won a prize in the marshals’ draw. I immediately thought I’d won a hat or something like that but when he told me I’d won the trip to Barbados, I couldn’t believe it!”
A volunteer for more than 15 years, Connolly’s experience ranges from Event Secretary to Clerk of the Course, and he will be Chief Marshal at the Ulster Rally for the fifth time later this year. At the ‘Circuit’, he worked with the timekeeping team on the Gregorlough stage: “I was at the ‘stop car’ on the final stage and it was lovely to be there and see Craig Breen’s reaction when he realised he had won the rally. That’s what I love about marshalling. You can get close to the action. It’s the best way to see the sport. Thanks to all those that have put up such a prize. Manpower is very difficult to get, so it’s fantastic that there is an opportunity like that out there to encourage people to join in“.
Fellow prize-winner, Kevin Flanagan, who is originally from County Monaghan but now lives in County Wicklow, was also part of the timekeeping team, at the finish of the Buck’s Head and McGaffin’s Corner stages. A veteran of more than 30 years as a volunteer, he said: “I’ve been Clerk of the Course at a few night navigation rallies and, many years ago, I was on the committee of Monaghan Motor Club. I’ve also been a class winning co-driver with Lloyd Hutchinson as well as a class-winning driver in my own Mini! I’d actually been looking at going to Barbados, having met some guys who are involved . . . so winning the prize is a dream come true!“