PLANNING CHANGES UP A GEAR FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS

Preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2021 have changed up a gear, with confirmation of plans to return to the popular Dark Hole stage in the north of the island and a new venue for King of the Hill on the previous Sunday, although that location remains under wraps. With the event already moved from June to the new date of September 25/26 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) continues to work with Government bodies within the framework of the existing Covid-19 restrictions to seek to ensure the 32nd running of its premier event can go ahead as planned.

<strong>Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard said:</strong> "We have stepped up our work on the route and are about half-way to having it finalised. It will be a two-day event again, with a similar format to last year, in that both days will be spread across the island, rather than concentrating in the north or in the east. I think it will be 19, possibly 20 stages, some will be the same, some new and at least one reversed, but we're working towards slightly more stage mileage than last year.

Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard said: “We have stepped up our work on the route and are about half-way to having it finalised. It will be a two-day event again, with a similar format to last year, in that both days will be spread across the island, rather than concentrating in the north or in the east. I think it will be 19, possibly 20 stages, some will be the same, some new and at least one reversed, but we’re working towards slightly more stage mileage than last year.

King of the Hill worked very well at Stewarts Hill for the last two years, but we know that there are many drivers who don’t find it as challenging as some of the venues in the past. We have looked at a number of other options and our preferred choice would be a stage configuration that has not been used before . . . and we think we have found one.”

After the inaugural King of the Hill in 2008 at Turners Hall in St Andrew, the event moved venues annually, first to Stewarts Hill in St Philip, then Sailor Gully in St Peter, before finding a more permanent home on Hangman’s Hill in St Thomas. Apart from 2013, when the event moved to Luke Hill in St Lucy, Hangmen’s Hill was used seven times between 2011 to 2018, also taking in various configurations of the Vaucluse Raceway in the later years. In 2019, King of the Hill switched back across the island to Stewarts Hill.

The major programme of improvement and rehabilitation across the island’s road network undertaken by the Ministry of Transport, Works & Maintenance over the past months has allowed the BRC’s route-setters to consider not only returning to popular stage venues of the past – Dark Hole is the most high-profile of these – but also to look at using some new stretches of road. Barnard added: “While the Ministry’s work has improved life for residents, particularly in some rural areas, it has also been good news for rallying, as we will be able to seek permission to use some of these repaved roads. Overall, however, you can still expect fairly bumpy stages like those we have become accustomed to.”

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