Maloney increases lead in R5 Rally Championship

Stuart Maloney has increased his lead in the R5 Rally Championship presented by First Citizens with a series of strong results as the summer break was followed by four qualifying rounds in quick succession. With three wins and a second-place finish, he has now amassed 208 points after 11 of 15 rounds, giving him a 66-point lead in the standings over the new second-place driver, his brother Mark, who has steadily moved up from fifth over the course of these recent events.

Each is campaigning a Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, with Roger Hill’s older Fabia R5 making it a Skoda lock-out in the top three ahead of the final four rounds. While there is a significant cushion between the points leader and second place, only 11 points cover second to fifth, with Mark Maloney on 142, Hill 138, Josh Read (Ford Fiesta R5) 135 and Britain’s Rob Swann (Fiesta Rally2) now the highest-placed of the five overseas drivers in fifth with 131 points after disappointing recent results.

Competitors in the island’s first-ever national motor sport series, which is administered by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF), now have a break of four weeks before rounds 12 and 13, the MCBI Hammer Time Double-Header Sprint (October 15), then round 14, the BRC Winter Rally (October 16).

Stuart Maloney, whose retirement from Sol Rally Barbados in June had trimmed his championship lead to just 20 points, won both directions of the Motoring Club Barbados Inc (MCBI) Full Throttle double-header Sprint (August 20). Fought out over a 4.6-kilometre course in the south-eastern parish of St Philip, running first from Golden Grove to Harrow and then in reverse, it included the Bushy Park triangle, tricky in either direction and a popular spot with spectators. All but one of the R5s based in the island was entered, 10 cars representing nearly one-third of the 31-strong entry!

Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Fiesta Rally2) and Swann flew the flag for the visitors in the first direction, both within 1 second of Maloney and comfortably ahead of the rest, with Read a surprisingly low seventh, his car running in ‘limp mode’ after he misread the pop-off valve setting on the ECU. He had it better sorted for the reverse run, however, finishing second to Maloney, albeit more than 3secs adrift, with Mark Maloney third, then Swann and Panton picking up decent points again, the Englishman now second in the standings.

The following day the R5 circus headed north to the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Autumn Double Header Sprint on the popular Sailor Gully stage in St Peter, which was being scored on cumulative times, rally-style. It ran from the Sailor Gully hairpin to French Village, with a longer reverse direction from Mt Brevitor back down to the hairpin. Just like the day before, Maloney set the early pace, with Panton, Read and Swann again his closest challengers on the opening stage, although Panton left the road just ahead of the Orange Hill Plantation on the second run and retired.

As had happened at the start of the day, a short rain shower preceded the first reverse run, in which Read topped the times, with Stuart Maloney losing around 5secs to a stall mid-way through the stage, giving Read a narrow lead. Despite Maloney being fastest on the remaining three runs, Read managed the gap to claim his second R5 Championship win by just six-tenths of a second, with Swann third, strengthening his grip on second in the standings.

Last Saturday’s (September 10) MCBI Rally of the Sun & Stars was the second-longest event of the season after Sol RB22, with venues in St George and St John, respectively just over and just under four kilometres each, run three times in each direction from day into night, making for 48 stage kilometres to challenge a depleted field of six cars. While the Fiestas of Stan and Ben Hartling, Andrew Mallalieu and Jeff Panton were absent (the Jamaican because his Skoda Fabia has been delayed), former Fiesta R5 pilot Suleman Esuf made his first appearance in the ex-Tom Preston Fabia R5 in which Zane Maloney became the youngest-ever winner of King of the Hill in May.

After Mark Maloney was quickest on the opening stage, brother Stuart won the remaining 10 (SS4 was cancelled), steadily extending his advantage to win by 28secs; on SS2, Swann was buzzing when he matched Stuart’s stage-winning time, but his delight was short-lived as a ruptured fuel line and fire on the next road section meant retirement. In a close fight, his brother snatched second place by just half-a-second from Read on the very last stage, with Hill fourth. With three-time British Rally Champion Matt Edwards again his co-driver, Paul Horton of the Turks & Caicos Rally Team was fifth, with Esuf, easing into his new mount, sixth.

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