SOL RALLY BARBADOS TO START AT VAUCLUSE RACEWAY

When the flag drops, the talking stops“, a motor sport adage crews competing in Sol Rally Barbados 2018 will be reminded of on Friday, June 1, when they will leave the Ceremonial Start at the Vaucluse Raceway (VRW) and drive straight in to the opening stage on the RallySprint track. It marks the first time that the St Thomas venue – a regular location for rally finishes over the years – has played host to the start.

A little under 48 hours later, having passed through nine of the island’s 11 parishes, the surviving crews will face an extended Bushy Park Barbados stage on Sunday afternoon to bring the 29th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event to a close. The St Philip facility will once again host Rally Central, the ‘home-away-from-home’ for overseas crews.

Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill (KotH) the previous weekend, May 26/27. Since entries opened on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – on October 1 last year, more than 70 have been posted, with just under two months to go before entries close in early May.

(FILE IMAGE) Event organiser Neil Barnard explains: “As we start to plan the route each year, there is always an urge to come up with something different, as we want to keep the challenge fresh and try to maintain a level playing field between the locals and the visitors. Last year’s two Friday night stages in the north of the island were a big hit with the drivers, even those who didn’t do so well in the dark, but the unexpected mass of spectators created a number of issues with the travelling public, so a repeat was not an option.

“In November’s Winter Rally, we used Vaucluse on the Friday night for something similar to what we plan for Sol Rally Barbados and it was very popular with competitors. Not just local crews, but regular visitors like Jamaica’s Jeff Panton, Paul Bird and Rob Swann from the UK, who all gave it the ‘thumbs up‘.”

While the BRC is still fine-tuning the logistics, crews will pass over the purpose-built ramp first seen at Sol Warrens last year for a short interview, then set off in head-to-head pairs on the RallySprint track, although they will cover two complete laps of the figure-of-eight three-kilometre facility, rather than the usual one. Given the current entry level and allowing for local and regional entries yet to register on-line, organisers are estimating a starters’ list upwards of 90 cars, making for around four hours of entertainment for fans on Friday evening.

VRW is the third venue to be used since the Friday night start was introduced for Sol RB14; the first three years were at Bushy Park, the initial single-stage format increased to two stages in 2015 and ’16, before the night stages in the north last year. Bushy Park will still play a key role in the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Rally Central a hive of activity in the two weeks around KotH and Sol RB18. In addition to providing a storage and service facility, which accommodates most international and some regional competitors, it also provides support services for teams, particularly newcomers.

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