Caribbean’s biggest international motor sport event blasts-off Saturday
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday June 06, 2012 – Sixty-three regional and international competitors will join their Bajan counterparts this Saturday when the Sol Rally Barbados 2012 roars-off for a weekend of thrills – and hopefully negligible spills.
For the third straight year, the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International has attracted a record entry. Countries represented this year include Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, Argentina, Canada, England, Kenya, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, United States and Wales.
Among many other record figures in this year’s statistics, 26 international drivers or co-drivers are new to the event and to the island. Following the European ‘Rally to Barbados’ promotional campaign run in association with the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), there has been a major upsurge of interest from Ireland, which accounts for six of the 12 first-time crews.
The rally originated as the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) highly anticipated annual June Rally. Five years ago the BRC, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007, partnered with title sponsor Sol, the region’s largest independent oil company, to create what has become the largest motor sport spectacle in the Caribbean.
Sol has expanded its support for motor sport with sponsorship of Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete, 12 times the winner of the island’s premier event since 1990. Skeete is chasing a third hat-trick of wins – his previous record includes consecutive triumphs in 1990-92 and 2000-02 – and his recent victory in the Valvoline Shakedown Stages is a good omen.
In this season’s local events, overall wins have been shared equally between Skeete, 2003 and ’07 RB winner Paul ‘Surfer’ Bourne (Ford Focus WRC07) and Sean Gill (Suzuki SX4 WRC).
From the wider Caribbean come Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell (Impreza WRC S14), who had stage wins in Barbados for the first time in the Shakedown Stages, and Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Focus WRC06), the first overseas winner in Barbados in 1998.
Add in former UK national champions Paul Bird (Focus WRC08), who claimed the King of the Hill crown on Sunday; Steve Perez (Focus WRC07) and Roger Duckworth (Impreza WRC) and anything might happen, while regular visitor Rob Swann could prove to be the dark horse in his UK-spec B13 Impreza.
The route for Sol RB12, which promises competitors and spectators alike an entertaining weekend, has 22 special stages: 12 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday. While the venues in use are all familiar, the route-setters have gone to some trouble to introduce some new ‘tweaks’, which will create new challenges for competitors and something different for spectators.
Sol Rally Barbados 2012 factoids:
+ drivers or co-drivers from 14 nations (including Barbados)
+ 63 International drivers or co-drivers, 26 new to the event
+ 9 drivers or co-drivers from the wider Caribbean, 1 new to the event
+ 72 local crews
+ 12 female competitors, one driver, 11 co-drivers (including 6 internationals, 3 new to the event)
+ cars from 21 manufacturers: Ford the best-represented with 27, followed by Toyota (21), BMW, Mitsubishi and Subaru (10 each)
+ 12 stages at three venues on Saturday, and 10 stages at two venues on Sunday
+ total stage distance – 122.60km
+ Sunday’s 10 stages total 69.00kms, the highest-ever day two percentage of the route
+ Sunday afternoon’s five stages total 35.40kms, the biggest ‘sting in the tail’ in the history of Rally Barbados.