Honours were shared in this weekend’s Double-Header Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Summer Sprint as the island’s leading competitors rejoined battle after the summer break. Dane Skeete won the first event running from Drax Hall to Ellesmere in St George, while Jamaica’s Jeff Panton won a very close battle in the reverse direction, with the top five covered by less than seven-tenths of a second.
Panton celebrated his first overall win for more than two years, coming after a marked return to form since his switch to a Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo; he and fellow Jamaican Kyle Gregg, who finished second overall in both directions in his Ford Fiesta Rally2, took one win apiece in the hotly-contested FIA R5 class in rounds five and six of the BRC Driver’s & Class Championships.
Facing four timed runs in each direction on a four-kilometre course, the Jamaicans were on the pace from the start; after two runs Panton had clocked 2m 12.41s, with Gregg not far behind (2:13.31) and Skeete (2:13.51) third in his WRC class Subaru Impreza WRC S12. On the third run, Skeete improved to 2:11.39, a time equalled by the usual R5 pace-setter Stuart Maloney in his Fabia Rally2 evo, with Panton (2:11.42) and Gregg (2:11.82) now third and fourth and Mark Maloney (Fabia Rally2 evo) fifth, with a time of 2:13.85 which would be his best in this direction.Everyone else improved on the final run, Skeete the only one to break the 2:10 mark, with Gregg, Stuart Maloney and Panton all within nine-tenths.
Josh Read (Fiesta R5) finished fifth, ahead of Roger Mayers, who dominated 2wd throughout in his Toyota WR Starlet, and Mark Maloney, with Roger Hill (Fabia R5), Paul Horton (Citroen C3 Rally2) and Andrew Mallalieu (Fiesta R5) completing the top 10.
After a break to allow stage crews to prepare for the reverse direction, competition was even hotter. Panton was again fastest on the first run (2:14.89), this time with Stuart Maloney (2:15.77), Gregg (2:15.88) and Mark Maloney (2:16.48) next up, with Skeete, suffering occasional clutch issues, fifth. Despite that, he was fastest on the second and third runs, with Mark Maloney just a tenth behind him ahead of the final run of the day; both then had issues, however, and failed to improve, Maloney suffering a puncture which prompted his brother Stuart to note: “I think if Mark had got a good fourth run in, he would’ve blitzed us based on his third run time.” But it was Panton who blitzed everyone, with Gregg, Skeete, Mark and Stuart Maloney completing the top five.
Panton said: “The times were very close in both sessions and I was happy to be up there; in the afternoon perhaps I made the least mistakes, I tried to be very clean and in the afternoon I added a little more aggression and the result came.” Fellow Jamaican Gregg added: “The confidence is coming along the more I’m driving the car. We did some chassis changes to soften it a bit to remedy some understeer. I made a couple mistakes on the day and had a puncture near the end of the last run but was happy to be competitive. All the people that doubted the Ford, the Ford is back.”
Mayers was again sixth in the reverse direction and winner of the SuperModified 2 class and 2wd overall after the opposition all faded; brother Barry’s hopes of challenging with his Fiesta’s new engine faded on the second run when his fly-by-wire throttle failed, while Rhett Watson’s return after nearly three years was mixed, flamboyant driving of his BMW M3 thrilling the crowds until a slight mistake on the first reverse run resulted in some solid cut-rock contact and damage to some bodywork and suspension parts.
Apart from FIA R5 and SM2, only two classes were fully subscribed with three or more competitors of which Clubman 2 had the most entrants, six, Ian Warren beating his BimmaCup compatriots in both directions, while Calvin Briggs (Ford Sierra) and Shareef Walcott (Toyota Corolla) shared the Group B wins. The other class-winners in both directions were Mark Thompson (M4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), Tremaine Forde-Catwell (SM1 Daihatsu Charmant), Logan Watson (M3 BMW M3), Neil Corbin (M2 Toyota GT86 CS-R3) and Jamaica’s Horatio Brown (M2 Citroen C2R2), while Clubman 1 was won by Jason Tull (Peugeot 106 Rallye S2) in the first direction, with Wayne Tasker (Opel Corsa B) prevailing in the reverse.