HILL HOMES IN ON TWENTY AT SOL RALLY BARBADOS
Three of the island’s most accomplished drivers, Roger Hill, Andrew Jones and Neil Corbin, head the list of early local entries confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2018. Each will be seeking to add to his previous tally of class wins, while Hill is also homing in on his 20th top 10 finish in the 29-year history of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event.
Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill on May 26/27. In the three months since entries opened on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – approaching 60 have been posted, with record interest from overseas.
During the event’s first decade, when it was known as the International All-Stage Rally, local Toyota dealer Hill competed in a Toyota Starlet, with two fourth places his best finishes among five top 10 results, also chalking up two class wins. He switched to a Toyota Corolla GT4 in 2000, which he campaigned for the next eight years, claiming his best finish – second – in 2003, which was also the first of four consecutive years of Modified 8 class wins.
By now teamed with his current co-driver Graham Gittens, Hill again upgraded his machinery in 2009, acquiring the Corolla WRC in which current Citroen WRC crew Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle won Sol Rally Barbados that year. He has added seven more top 10 finishes in the past decade and is always a force to reckon with in the WRC-2 class for cars built before the end of 2003. After a bare-shell rebuild by his regular engineer Dave Crawford during the winter, the Esso/Nassco/MaxMeyer/MotorMac/Pennzoil Corolla finished sixth overall and second in WRC-2 in Sol RB17, raising Hill’s tally of top 10 finishes in the event to 19. Only 13-time winner Roger Skeete has more, with 20.
With co-driver and wife Lindsay Pilkington, Jones has clocked up two top 10 finishes in the AP Jones Pharmacy/Southern Surf Beach Apartments/Caribbean Powder Coating/Lucozade Ford Escort MkII; in Sol RB14, they finished ninth overall, winning SuperModified 11 for the second straight year, then finished 10th last year, losing out on victory in SM13 by just three seconds to the BMW M3 of Justin Campbell and Juan Watts.
He has campaigned his Escort in the island’s premier event since 2003, moving between the Modified and SuperModified classes along the way, sometimes running in Group B, then changed up to SM3 in 2017, taking on the might of the BMW M3s; he finished second overall in the Barbados Rally Club’s Champion Driver title chase last year – he was five points shy of Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton in his all-conquering Ford Focus WRC06 – in his most successful season to date.
A larger-than-life character in island motor sport, ‘Jonesy‘ and Lindsey organised a ‘Rum Shop Bus Tour‘ for the overseas visitors to Sol RB17, which was such a success that it is set to become an annual fixture, listed for the Monday after Flow King of the Hill in the schedule for this year.
Corbin is another with responsibilities outside the rally car, as he is the Competition Secretary of the BRC. The Club’s Champion Driver in 2012 and a four-time year-end Class Champion, he has campaigned a Starlet since 2006, steadily developing the car, switching between the Modified and SuperModified groups much like Jones. Since 2012, he and co-driver Matthew Staffner have won their class on Sol Rally Barbados in five out of six years, propelling the Nassco/H Jason Jones/Auto Solutions/Emtage Electric/Valvoline/Hino Trucks Toyota Starlet well up the overall finishing order. They finished a career-best 12th last year, winning SM1 in their first season in the category, having previously won Modified 6, which became M1 under the latest set of Vehicle Regulations, four times.