TIGHT MARGIN FOR SKEETE AT LIME’s “KING OF THE HILL” – Thrilling competition played out in front of huge crowds
Roger ‘The Sheriff‘ Skeete (Sol/LIME/Simpson Motors/Automotive Art Subaru Impreza WRC S12) won an action-packed LIME King of the Hill yesterday (Sunday), as a record number of overseas competitors made their final preparations for Sol Rally Barbados next weekend (May 29-31), when the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) celebrates the 25th Anniversary of its premier event.
Skeete said: “It was quite difficult, with the others being so quick; we experimented with tyres in the earlier runs and found the right set for the last two.” Panton added: “I had an anti-lag issue on the practice, but got a decent run in for the first official, which stood as fastest until the last. The flat in the second broke the momentum, in the third run we thought we had it; but Roger did better. Next weekend is all-out battle.”
By the time the 10.00am practice run started, huge crowds had gathered inside the Vaucluse Raceway (VRW), with hundreds more spectators lining other popular spots on Hangmans Hill, Dukes and Lion Castle. An intricate sequence of corners within VRW contributed significantly to the longest stage distance in KotH history, 4.6 kilometres.
Twice European Rally Champion Simon Jean-Joseph was fastest in practice in John Powell’s Intercontinental Shipping/Trinidad Mooring & Launch Services Focus WRC08, clocking 3m 10.27s, ahead of Skeete (3:11.13), the Nassco/Esso/Pennzoil/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC of Roger Hill (3:17.68), Panton (3:18.09) and England’s Roger Duckworth (3:18.14, Intrinsys Impreza WRC S6). Roger Mayers topped the 2wd runners, sixth on 3:18.91 in the Chefette/Sol/Digicel/DHL/Hankook/Illusion Graphics WR Starlet.
Jean-Joseph said: “This event was like a practice for me, as my last 4wd tarmac drive was in 2000. This event’s atmosphere is quite different . . . it is like Christmas in May.”
There was never a dull moment once the official timed runs got under way – the fastest of three would decide the results. Panton was ahead after the first run, with a stunning 3:03.51, more than three-and-half seconds quicker than Jean-Joseph (3:07.26), with a flamboyant Rob Swann third (3:07.86, Waves Hotel and Spa Barbados/Terra Caribbean/Cygnet Plant/R A Swann Impreza WRC S11) and Duckworth fourth (3:10.70). Josh Read (Stihl/Gliptone/Sprite/Hankook/Weetabix/Chutney’s/Royal Purple/EZone Toyota Starlet) was fifth and top 2wd, exactly 1sec up on Neil Armstrong (Rubis/Chefette/Hankook/Nassco/GUNK Starlet), Mayers now with alternator problems.
Bird ran off just a few yards into the stage, with no injury to driver or co-driver Aled Davies, but the incident prompted a long delay while the Focus was removed from its resting place against a well. Skeete had problems, too, with a stall on the start-line: “We tried leaving the line with the handbrake up . . . which didn’t work too well.”
While Skeete was fastest on the second run, 3:03.71 was still two-tenths off Panton, who spun entering VRW, then limped out of the arena with a puncture. Jean-Joseph found more than two seconds to lie third (3:04.59), with Bird slotting into fourth (3:04.96), ahead of Duckworth, Swann and Hill. The leading 2wd runners completed the top 10, Read (3:11.90) ahead of Armstrong (3:12.49) and Mayers (3:14.10), who entertained the crowd with a dramatic spin at VRW.
On the final run, Jean-Joseph failed to improve, slipping to fourth, while half-a-second covered the top three after a thrilling competition; all improved on their final run, Skeete (3:01.54) pipping Panton by five-hundredths, with Bird third (3:02.03). Swann found nearly 2secs to leapfrog WRC-2 winner Duckworth to fifth, while Hill slipped to eighth. Read chipped another 3secs off for seventh overall, to claim his first KotH 2wd win, also SuperModified 10, with Armstrong and Mayers ninth and 10th. Read said: “I am really happy. The team needed a boost, having done lots of hard work to get the car right. I didn’t have any real expectations, but I knew I had to be clean.”
There were some very close finishes in the classes, too: the smallest margin was just 4/100ths in Modified 7, where Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic) beat Paul Horton (Ford Escort MkI) from the Turks & Caicos Islands, finishing 24th overall. In Group A, Welshman Rupert Lomax (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI) led after the first run, but Joe McQuillan (Evo IX) turned the tables on run two, the Irishman 7/100ths to the good and 17th overall.
There was an overseas victory in SM11, too, where Sol RB newcomer Simon Mauger (Escort MkII) pulled out all the stops on the final run, finishing 11th, with Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) just one place and quarter of a second behind him. GpN also provided a close finish, Andrew Mallalieu (Impreza N10) finishing 15th overall to beat Mark Thompson (Evo IX) by just under eight-tenths.
Rhett Watson (BMW M3) was 13th overall for a commanding victory in SM12, Neil Corbin (Starlet) 19th and winner of M6, while the Escort MkIIs of first-time visitors Pete Rayner and Peter Shaun Sinclair won Group B and International Historic respectively. Sol RB debutante Mark Kinch (Startlet) won SM9 and Jeremy Croney (Peugeot 206XS) the Clubman category, while English newcomer Marcus Tinsley was on his own in M5.
Of the 87 listed on the running order, there were seven non-starters; casualties included Nick Marshall from New Zealand, who ran off the road in his Peugeot 206 GTi 180 on the exit of the bridge at VRW – he did, however, return for the final run – while a number of ‘wrong-slots’ kept the spectators’ attention focussed.