Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennell Jnr in their Rubis Ford Focus maintained their 100 per cent win rate in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) 2018 Driver’s and Class Championships in the final round on Saturday (November 24). Even before celebrating victory in the Tivoli Winter Rally, however, the Jamaican was quick to commiserate with Britain’s Rob Swann, whom Panton described as “the better driver today“.

With long-term Welsh co-driver Darren Garrod in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B, Swann made a determined start, winning the first two stages from Pool to Drax Hall, then Chapel to Congo Road, to build up a five-second lead. Although Panton pegged him back, as they shared the other two daylight stage wins – SS5 was cancelled to bring the event back on time after an early delay – Swann was still 2.85secs up at the dinner break, only for an electrical fault to ruin his day.

Swann explained: “After dinner, we went to the start line and, with all the lights on, the battery went down, so we stalled due to the launch not working. The clock was already at eight seconds, but I reckon we lost more than that. After that, the car was down on power, so we just had to manage it to the finish. To lose by six seconds, having given eight or 10 on the start line is hard to swallow, as I really felt we had him!

And Panton agreed: “To be honest, I didn’t put much preparation into my driving and my mental state and it showed, being totally off, lacking rhythm and feeling uncomfortable in the car. I’m gutted for Rob, as he was the better driver today, leading until his stall. Rob has never been a slouch and today was a swift kick up the backside … but we welcome the competition and look forward to next year.”

When his father’s Impreza couldn’t be readied in time, Dane Skeete reverted to his Peugeot 306 Maxi, promising a cracking battle for two-wheel-drive honours with Barry and Roger Mayers. Having first run his WR Starlet only a few hours before the start, however, Mayers the elder was the first retirement (engine woes) on SS1, the front-drive Peugeot soon getting the upper hand, leading Barry’s rear-drive Fiesta at the dinner break by 3.87secs. When steering failure caused contact between Peugeot and scenery on the first night-time run from Chapel to Congo Road, Barry assumed the 2wd lead, third overall, where he remained to the finish, job done as he said afterwards: “We started with basic expectations today to finish, as we were trying to wrap up the group championship without taking any risks.” He is also 2wd Champion elect.

The star turn in 2wd, however, was Logan Watson in his BMW M3. Helped by some impressive stage times, including top 2wd on SS2, he was ahead in an epic battle for overall position with Roger Hill’s Toyota Corolla WRC and Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho in his Ford Fiesta R5 when Skeete retired, so inherited fourth place. Contact with a wall on SS8, however, ended his impressive run and handed the SuperModified 3 class win to the delighted Turks & Caicos crew of Stan Hartling and new co-driver Sabrina Martinenghi. Even so, Watson is SM3 Champion elect, having started the event only two points clear of Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII), who retired with engine problems.

Hill finished fourth overall, third in WRC, and less than a second ahead of Coelho, who is benefitting from increased seat time in his Fiesta; he won Group A by 12secs from Andrew Mallalieu (Subaru Impreza), who was sixth. Greg Cozier (Ford Escort MkII) finished seventh, winning the Historic class from 10th-placed Wayne Archer (BMW 325), who had a misfire from mid-way through the first leg; Turks & Caicos rep Paul Horton (Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX) was eighth, winning Modified 2, after early leader Jamal Brathwaite (Honda Civic Type-R) retired when his rear suspension collapsed two stages from home, while Jonathan Still (BMW M3) won Group B in ninth place.

The other class-winners were: Edward Corbin (Daihatsu Charmant), who was never challenged in M1, finishing 12th overall; Winston Thompson (Starlet), one place behind Corbin, benefitting from issues for event-long SM1 leader Jeremy Gonsalves (Opel Corsa) on the final stage; Ian Warren (BMW 318ti Compact), who finished 15th overall and won the hotly-contested Clubman 2 category by just 2.29secs from Eric Allamby; Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS), who claimed C1 after Jermin Pope (Civic) and Kevin Wiggins (Starlet) retired. There were 28 finishers from the 39 starters.

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