After a nine-month break, the longest since the navigational series started in 2004, crews contesting the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship are preparing for competition once again. And, with a weather system bearing down on the island, this weekend’s (July 25/26) Shelbury Construction Summer Safari (‘The June’) looks set to remind everyone just what they have been missing.

COVID19 protocols will be strictly followed, with temperature checks, masks and gloves in use for competitors and volunteers, while there will be no Driver Challenges, to fall in line with mass gathering restrictions. This weekend’s event will be one of three in the 2020 Championship – the others will follow in September and November – all of which will count towards year-end totals, with no dropped score.

Shortly after the first round of the 2020 Championship in March was abandoned, the Lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic also meant the postponement of the June Safari, a keystone of the BRC’s calendar. The longest-established motor sport event in the region with a continuous history and the catalyst for the formation of the Club, ‘The June’ was first run in 1957 and winning the event is on many a member’s ‘bucket’ list; while there are six former winners in this year’s entry, others will be hoping to join the 73 currently listed on the event’s Roll of Honour.

The most recent names added were Ben Norris and Kirk Watkins, who won last year’s event in their Toyota Land Cruiser, a well-deserved result after finishing on the podium three times in the previous five years. Those out to prevent a repeat are Chris Armstrong and Wayne Clarke, driver Armstrong a four-time winner, while navigator Clarke has won no fewer than six times, two with Don Hunte in the early 1990s, before adding to his tally alongside Armstrong between 2000 and 2013.

Michael Ward and Warrick Eastmond, who won in 2016, are also entered, but with different partners; Eastmond navigates for Christopher King in a Nissan Frontier, while Ward steps down to Class B as the driver for young Austin Barber, who becomes a third-generation competitor on his debut in the Championship.

Absent are navigational rally veterans Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’Neal, as Alleyne explains: “I have sold the D-Max and am focusing on finding a replacement. Given the nature of the year thus far, I have decided that it is pretty much a write off, so I aim to get myself sorted with a vehicle and prepare it without worrying about competition. Chris and I will try to get in at least one event later in the year as a shakedown, then be fully ready for battle in 2021.”

Route-setters Kai Prescod and Kristina Pinto report that the Sumer Safari will pass through 10 of the island’s 11 parishes, offering a challenging series of routes for this welcome return to competition for crews; as Driver and Navigator, they contested the April and September Safaris last year, finishing ninth in April in their Ford Ranger, while Pinto has also sat with Jason Downey on a number of rallies.

The first crew will leave the start at Structural Systems in Cane Garden, St Thomas, at 2.00pm, making their way into the northern parishes before breaking for supper at Chefette Speightstown, St Peter, at around 7.00pm. The second route will carry them across the island before a second rest break at Colleton in St John shortly after midnight; the final route will lead them back to the finish at Colleton, at around 6.30am. The results will be declared at the Prizegiving on Tuesday evening (July 28) at the Barbados Clay Target Shooting Association (BCTSA) Club House at Searles, Christ Church.

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