FIA Formula 3 racer Zane Maloney nailed the all-important dry third run of First Citizens King of the Hill yesterday (Sunday) to become the youngest winner since the event was created by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) in 2008 as the final shakedown before Sol Rally Barbados. He also led the first-ever clean sweep of the KotH podium by cars from the FIA R5 class, heading home his uncle Stuart and Britain’s Frank Bird, whose father Paul won KotH in 2012 & ’14.
In his first event with a co-driver – Kreigg Yearwood – 18-year-old Maloney was driving the same Skoda Fabia R5 in which Britain’s Tom Preston won the newly-introduced FIA R5 class at KotH in 2019. It was brought back to the island by Stuart, the first of what is now a three-car Skoda stable, both Stuart and his brother Mark driving the Rally2 versions, Mark finishing 12th overall and sixth in the R5 class yesterday.
The island’s biggest rallying spectacle since 2019 attracted huge crowds, who gathered from early, even overnight, to bag the best vantage points, of which there were plenty along the freshly-configured course from Content through the Dukes crossroads, then south into the Vaucluse Raceway. Former 2wd winner Rhett Watson warmed the crowd up as Zero Car ahead of the 82-car field, which ran in reverse order of performance.
The teenager, who is enjoying a long break between rounds three and four of the FIA F3 Championship, trailed in the first run, 22nd overall. Quickest out of the box was Britain’s Rob Swann (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), with Bird (Ford Fiesta Rally2) second and Dane Skeete third in the Impreza in which he won Sol RB19 and KotH 2020.
Skeete was faster than Swann on the second run, but rain had fallen so the Englishman’s time was still the best of the day so far, ahead of Bird, Skeete, the two Fiesta S2000Ts of fellow-Brits Kevin Procter and Andy Scott, with five R5 cars packing the top 10 – Mark and Stuart Maloney, the Turks & Caicos Rally Team’s Paul Horton (Fiesta), Roger Hill (Fabia) and Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Fiesta). With the seventh fastest time on run two, Zane had moved up to 17th overall, so there was still work to do.
And the work was done on the third run, the only completely dry run of the day, when all but 16 cars recorded their best times. Improving by more than 17secs, Maloney leapt to the top of the timesheets, two-tenths quicker than Stuart, with Bird also improving by 3secs to claim third, eight-tenths behind the older Maloney. Skeete knocked 4secs off his best and Swann might have been expected to do the same, but he pulled off at the Dukes crossroads with a mechanical problem; it put him out for the rest of the day, but he still finished fifth, just over 3ecs covering the top five. Panton moved up to sixth, ahead of Procter and Scott, with Mark Thompson powering his Modified 4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX into ninth ahead of Procter’s nephew Joe Cunningham in another Fiesta 2000T, an impressive result on his first trip to compete on the island.
Zane said: “The first two runs weren’t so good, so it was good to get that third run in and, for the last run, I had some fun putting on a bit of a show for the fans. I’m happy to be the first on the road for the rally; even though it has its disadvantages there should be no delays to my run if something happens down the order. To be honest, I think the F3 stuff has been really helping me a lot so I’ll be using all my knowledge of a race car to help me for the rally.”
He may need it, too, as uncle Stuart said: “I left some on the stage, as there is next weekend’s event to come. However, I don’t mind not being first on the road next weekend, especially if it is dry, so the road can clean a bit.”
Bird, who first visited the island with his family when he was eight, said: “My dad said to me ‘enjoy yourself and put on a good show for the fans‘. We had a good time our first time out and had a good result, so I’m happy with P3. The mindset for next week is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, make no mistakes and be nice, neat and tidy. I’ve got a few of my dad’s genes in me so we’ll see, hopefully I can be hot out of the box.”
Skeete said: “I’m feeling good after the event. The car worked well, as did the team. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a single run without rain or oil on the stage, so I never got to set a good time. I was anticipating the R5s being out front seeing as they have much better traction inside Vaucluse. We have a long week of prep ahead but I’m feeling confident we can be out front come next weekend.”
After the first two runs, Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII) was ahead of Roger Mayers (Toyota WR Starlet) and Logan Watson (BMW M3) in the battle for top 2wd, just a couple of seconds covering the trioe. Again, it was the third run that settled it, Mayers winning the day, 16th overall, with Jones and Watson separated by just eight-tenths. With Mayers not starting Sol RB22, a close battle between these two is anticipated.
While the smallest margin of victory had been the overall win, there were other class victories claimed by narrow margins: in M1, Jermin Pope (Honda Civic) beat Edward Corbin’s stunningly re-liveried Daihatsu Charmant by just 0.41s, both knocking on the door of the top 20 in the first run but finishing impressively 24th and 25th overall. In Clubman 1, although previous winner Jason Tull overcame some issues with his Peugeot 106 Rallye S2 that arose early in the day, the door had been opened for KotH newcomer Darren Lashley (Toyota Starlet) to snatch the class win by 1.13s.
In C2, the best-subscribed class with 13 BimmaCup starters, each of the four runs produced a different winner, in order Sacha Soodeen, Sean Corbin, Ryan Wood and Nick Morley, the Englishman avoiding the heavy rain that fell part-way through the final run thanks to his low start number. But it was ‘Woody’ who prevailed, beating Michael Worme by 1.20s, with Allan Kinch a further tenth behind, all those times from the third run. Stuart Garcia won the BimmaCup Too battle in C3 on the first run, but Greg Cozier assumed the lead on run two, winning the day by 2.38s.
In M2 Chris Ullyett pedalled his Ford Escort RS2000 to fastest on the first run, six or so seconds ahead of Neil Corbin (Toyota GT86 CS-R3), but Corbin fought back, Ullyett beaten by 1.44s. Britain’s Ian Coulson (Ford Focus) was class fastest on the wet final run, finishing third in class, also thanks to the third run. Tremaine Ford-Catwell’s flamboyantly-driven Daihatsu Charmant was consistently quickest in SM1 for the first three runs, beating the equally sideways Toyota Corolla of returning visitor Simon Nutter to the class win by 1.85s. Neither Nutter nor fellow-Brit Graham Haigh (Ford Escort MkII) tackled the wet final run, in which fastest was another of the UK contingent, Marcel Freling in his Honda-engined MG ZR.
Three classes were won by British visitors, with Historic 2 the hardest-fought: Sean Kukula was ahead of Chris Shooter in the battle of the MkII Escorts until the third run, when Shooter improved hugely to top the times by 4.75s, while Scotland’s Robin Hamilton (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus) edged Kukula for third by 0.16s. Lyndon Barton won Group B2, his Ford Fiesta R5 needing a couple of tweaks before it can run in the FIA R5 class next weekend; he beat fellow-Brit Andrew Graham’s Land Rover 90TDS, which scored highly on the island crowd-o-meter and finished a respectable 70th. Andrew Costin-Hurley (Ford Puma Cosworth) was on his own in GpB1 after Shawn Eversley retired his Suzuki Swift on the second run.