SOL RALLY BARBADOS A HIT AT AUTOSPORT SHOW

The Sol Rally Barbados stand at Europe’s largest motor sport show, Autosport International (ASI), has been a hive of activity over the past four days (January 12-15). Competitors past, present and future have been showing their support for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, while a host of spectators registered with tour specialists Rally Travel, hoping to win an Official Spectator Package to Sol RB17.

Among more than 450 exhibitors spread through multiple halls at the UK’s National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Sol RB17 stand was well-placed, just a few yards away from the Wales Rally GB display, the only other rally represented at the event. Sited on the corner of two busy walkways, the stand attracted a regular flow of interested parties during the trade days on Thursday and Friday and the public days over the weekend.

In the BRC’s 60th Anniversary year, the Club’s premier event will run from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4, with Scrutineering and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend, May 27/28. Almost 50 entries have been received on-line at www.rallybarbados.net, including 36 overseas crews, one-third of them first-timers.

Acknowledging that the Club did not know what to expect from its first presence at an international exhibition, BRC Competition Secretary Neil Corbin, who led the team in the UK, said: “We’re on a nice corner spot, in a prime position, we have our palm trees and flags, and we’re playing video footage, so really and truly we look quite different to the other stands. Our budget is not the same, but I think we have represented very well.

Now that we’re on the final day, and I’m starting to lose my voice, it is really encouraging to see what we have done to spread the word about Sol Rally Barbados. On the first two days, you have to have a competition licence or be in the industry to come in; the amount of people who said that they knew about the event, but had put it on the back burner, because they had never realised what they needed to do to get there.

“These guys came over, we gave them the information, and they have realised that it is much easier than they thought it would be, and much cheaper. The opportunity for us to break into that market and push people over the edge of committing to compete in Rally Barbados, I think we’ve done very well when it comes to that. They were largely clubman-type people, but also people with exotic Group B cars or even R5s.”

Among previous competitors to visit the stand were Dave Bellerby, Sean Kukula, Dick Mauger, Hugh Peat, Steve Perez, Martin Stockdale and Rob Swann, while Frans Verbaas had travelled from the Netherlands to attend the show. Scottish fan favourite Allan Mackay, who had volunteered to work on the stand for a couple of hours on each of the two trade days, honoured his commitment, even though he had to drive down from Scotland after internal UK flights were cancelled because of inclement weather.

Sol Rally Barbados (June 2-4, 2017) and Flow King of the Hill (May 28) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB17 marks the 10th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the second by communications provider Flow.

First-time competitors Kevin Flanagan and Richard Seal, who have been confirmed as Sol RB17 participants in recent weeks, were also among the attendees, while there were Barbados connections thrilling the crowds in the Live Action Arena. Driving his Ford Fiesta Supercar, Kevin Procter (seen above) joined other competitors from across the ages to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Rallycross, while Rupert Lomax was part of an Autograss demonstration at the wheel of his Class 7 Fiat, powered by a rear-mounted 450 horsepower Chevrolet engine.

ASI was also the stage on which the BRC launched its new campaign to attract more overseas spectators to its premier event. Supported by the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), the Club has partnered with Rally Travel (www.rallytravel.com) to offer Official Spectator Packages for 2017.

After spending the two public days at the NEC over the weekend, Rally Travel boss David Hutchinson said: “What has been a positive feature is the number of our regular WRC clients who have popped on to the stand to enter the competition, learning all about Rally Barbados and being really interested, and I think that’s two-fold.

“One is the fact that, unlike WRC events, we can genuinely offer a beach holiday with rallying, so the rally fan’s wife can go with the family. Second, I think they’re very much intrigued by the rally itself, and particularly the cars that are in the island. The idea of becoming a real part of the rally, with access to press conferences, scrutineering, post-rally parties, functions with the drivers, the whole gamut – that’s very appealing.”

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