Ben Norris and Kirk Watkins celebrated their first off-road navigational victory since 2019 when they won the September 18th fourth round of the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship. The ‘Donks’ September Safari, titled for the affectionate nickname by which Club stalwart Philip McConney was known, also marked a return to more challenging conditions, following heavy rain the night before.
Amassing a total of only 70 penalties over the 100-kilometre event in their Jeep Rubicon, Norris and Watkins’s winning margin was 130 points. Christopher King and Warrick Eastmond (Suzuki Jimny) won a tight battle for second place by just six points, beating Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’Neal (POD Store/Maxxis Jimny), who had won all three previous events for the year.
The successful crews received plaques and trophies sponsored by Realtors Ltd and Serenity Pest Control at Tuesday evening’s Prizegiving at Ocean Park, Christ Church, where MudDogs Chairman Ricky Holder thanked the sponsors, route-setters Jason Downey and Kristina Pinto and the volunteer marshals.
Norris said: “It was our first win in the Jeep and its first real test in some proper muddy conditions, which it handled even better than expected. More than four inches of rain the night before certainly put the Mud back into the MudDogs! An enjoyable event on many levels from the conditions to the route itself and, not least, it’s a special honour to take the top spot in the first memorial event for our dear friend Donks, who meant so much to the MudDogs family and who would have had a blast!”
‘Donks‘, whose sudden passing in July was a shock to the whole community, had been a competitor, marshal and official for more than 30 years and there was rarely a motor sport event from which he was absent. Most recently, he had been the Start and Service Park Co-ordinator for Sol Rally Barbados 2022 before participating in the 65th Anniversary running of the June Rally, an event he had won twice.
“It was also great to see some new faces competing which we hope will bode well for the last event of the season in November,” added Norris. Five new names on Sunday’s entry list brought the total number of drivers or navigators who have competed this year to nearly 50 and Holder is also pleased with the steady growth: “It was a great event, the newcomers said that they enjoyed it and are looking forward to the next.”
With just eight penalties incurred on the first route from Oughterson in St Philip to the Armag Vegetable Depot in the same parish, Norris and Watkins shared the lead with Gary Mendes and Jonathan King (G&G Sales and Service Daihatsu Rocky). Third were Class B leaders Joseph Tseu and Samantha Williams in a Suzuki Samurai eight penalty points behind. While a Driver Challenge had been planned close to Foursquare just before the lunch halt, it was abandoned on safety grounds.
Norris and Watkins won route two, which finished back at Oughterson, with Alleyne and O’Neal second, King and Eastmond third. Alleyne and O’Neal had done well to move up the Leader Board from 10th place after a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes in route one where there was no margin for error, but they were to lose out on second place by just six points, as these three crews emerged as the class of the field.
Adam Hunte and Samantha Gibbs finished fourth in their Doverwood Projects Nissan Patrol, their best overall result together, and won Class B for the third time this season, reinforcing their lead in the standings. On route 1, they fianished second in class to Tseu and Williams, but the new pairing dropped out on the second route leaving Hunte and Gibbs a clear run to victory. Father and son duo Stephen and Ben Moore finished second in Class B, enjoying their first event together in the family Isuzu D-Max, although Ben and Luke Cozier had won the class in ‘The June’, with Joel Smith and Simon Parravicino third in their Jeep Wrangler.