SIMON JEAN-JOSEPH FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS: Double European Rally Champion to drive Ford Focus WRC08
Double European Rally Champion, France’s Simon Jean-Joseph, will contest both LIME King of the Hill on Sunday (May 24) and what he describes as “the legendary” Sol Rally Barbados 2015 the following weekend (May 29-31), which marks the 25th Anniversary of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event.
He will drive the Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Intercontinental Shipping/Trinidad Mooring & Launch Services Ford Focus WRC08 entered by Trinidad’s John Powell, who is now unable to compete, owing to business commitments. His co-driver is Jack Boyere, who partnered him from 2002, including sharing both ERC titles in 2003 & ’07.
Joining Finland’s Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki SX4) on a quality entry list that breaks a host of records for the island’s premier event, Jean-Joseph will face a tough challenge from local ace and 13-time winner Roger Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12), Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton (Focus WRC06) and Britain’s Paul Bird – he won in 2013 & ’13 in his Focus WRC08 – and Rob Swann (Impreza S7), who finished second last year.
Jean-Joseph said: “It is with great pleasure that I will participate in Sol Rally Barbados. When I was a professional, I was never able to come to this great event. I must say a big ‘thank-you‘ to John Powell for giving me the opportunity to compete in this legendary rally. Having said that, my last tarmac rally was in 2008, so it is going to be tough.”
He started rallying in his native Martinique in the late 1980s, where he drove a wide variety of cars, Citroen AX Sport, Ford Escort RS2000, Opel Manta and Renault R5 GT Turbo, mixing front and rear-wheel-drive. His first major successes came in a Peugeot 309 GTi, winning a hat-trick of Martinique Rally Championships before he moved on to tackle the French Championship.
His first mainland campaign was short-lived. He retired from his debut WRC event – the Tour de Corse – in a Ford Escort Cosworth after engine failure while running inside the top 10, then claimed a handful of class wins in a Peugeot 106, before returning home; an accident in Guadeloupe in a Nissan Sunny GTiR in 1995 left him on the sidelines for six months, but he won four events in a Subaru Impreza the following year, on his way to a total of 25 regional victories by 1997.
Back on the mainland, with what was by now an elderly Impreza, he won the Amateur title in the 1997 Championship, then looked set to win outright the following year against opposition driving state-of-the-art 2wd drive asphalt machinery. A showdown in the final round with works driver Philippe Bugalski, however, left him runner-up.
But he had been noticed, earning a Ford works drive for four WRC rounds in 1999, co-driven by Ireland’s Fred Gallagher, who was in Barbados last year, as Clerk of the Course at Race Of Champions. While they only finished once, seventh in San Remo, Gallagher remembers: “a great driver, who never did get quite the results he deserved.”
Success was soon to come, however. After three top WRC 10 finishes in each of the following two years in selected events (2000, Subaru World Rally Team Impreza; 2001, Kronos Peugeot 206WRC), along with his new co-driver Boyere, Jean-Joseph switched to two-wheel-drive and Super 1600, the beginning of a long record of giant-killing acts.
In a Renault Clio, he earned class wins in the WRC (including at Wales Rally GB 2002) and the French Championship – S1600 Champion in 2003 – then claimed three victories on his way to the ERC title for the first time in 2004. In the next few years, he combined ERC with three outings in the Dakar Rally Raid and development work for Renault and Citroen (particularly on the C2 R2), winning his second European title in 2007 against exclusively 4wd machinery in a PH Sport-prepared Citroën C2.
A water-skiing accident in 2008 curtailed his career for a couple of years, but he burst back as a rally-winner in the 2011 Rallye Terre Auxerrois in a Petter Solberg-run Citroen Xsara, giving Kumho its first major victory, going on to win the French Gravel Championship that year, his last title win.