After a last-minute change of heart just a couple of days before entries closed and rally cars were due to be delivered to Portsmouth in readiness for sailing on the Geest Line freighter Baltic Klipper, Britain’s Nigel Worswick says he will indeed compete in Sol Rally Barbados this year. He returns with the Ford Escort MkII he first campaigned in the island in 2011, one of three Escorts confirmed for the SuperModified 2 class, with fellow Brits Graham Haigh and Dick Mauger also returning.
Sol RB23, the 33rd running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, will start with a floodlit SuperSpecial at Bushy Park Barbados on Friday, June 9, with two days of action in the northern and eastern parishes culminating in a daylight SuperSpecial and Rally Finish back at the St Philip facility on Sunday. The Rally Show and First Citizens King of the Hill will be staged on the previous weekend, June 3 & 4.
Last year marked Worswick’s 10th trip to the region’s biggest annual motor sport international – they would have been in consecutive years but for the coronavirus pandemic – and the first with his ex-Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta S2000T in a trip dedicated to the memory of his parents Alan and Edythe, whose legacy enabled the purchase. He finished 12th overall and fourth in WRC, with co-driver Rebecca Kirsch winning the highest-placed female co-driver trophy.
After clocking up 10 visits, his initial decision had been to take a sabbatical to focus on the rallies he has been tackling in the UK, particularly closed-road events such as the iconic Jim Clark Rally, which often clashes with the ‘shakedown’ King of the Hill event in Barbados.
Worswick explains: “There is a weird symmetry here. In 2011, I had entered the Jim Clark in the Escort WRC but was discussing holidays with a friend – I said holidays are OK, but I’d like something in the middle to look forward to rather than just lying on a beach, which is how that first trip with the MkII came about. Fast forward to 2023, I have entered the Jim Clark again in the Fiesta, but thanks to the Barbados Rally Club officials, who have helped enormously, a very last-minute decision of mine means I’ve been able to send the MkII again. I fully rebuilt the car during Lockdown, so luckily it was ready to go!“
Worswick’s co-driver will be Sophie-Louise Buckland, who sat in on his best island result, eighth overall and second in WRC in his Ford Escort WRC in Sol RB19; the MkII Escort has not been seen in Barbados since 2015, when he and Kirsch finished 17th overall and second in what was then SM11, a second good result for the pairing, after finishing 15th overall and third in class the year before.
Yorkshire farmer Haigh returns for his fourth visit and Mauger for his eighth. After two previous trips and overall finishes with Kari Bates in his British Airways-liveried MkII, problems on Saturday last year resulted in a Sunday Cup entry, in which they finished sixth. The later date for this year’s event means Bates cannot return to co-drive, so Haigh will have Jonathan Haynes sitting with him, back for a second time to compete after co-driving in ‘Pip’ Coulson’s Ford Focus last year.
Mauger and his hugely experienced co-driver Liz Jordan have the distinction of being the oldest crew in the event; both have been rallying for more than 50 years, with overall and class wins aplenty on their cvs. This is Mauger’s eighth visit, although he missed Sol RB19 after falling ill after KotH, apart from which he has a 100 per cent finishing record. He won Modified 6 in a Nissan Micra in Sol RB14, also matching that year’s 33rd overall placing – his best so far – in Sol RB18 in a MkII Escort in SM2.