SOL Rally Bar­ba­dos 2015 — The Win­ning Rundown

The most dif­fi­cult rally to win” says Jamaican

Jamaica’s Jef­frey Pan­ton led an over­seas lock-​out of the Sol Rally Bar­ba­dos podium at the week­end (May 2931), as the Bar­ba­dos Rally Club (BRC) cel­e­brated the 25th Anniver­sary of its pre­mier event with a record-​breaking entry. In the Pan­ton Motor­sport and Pro Auto Works-​supported Ford Focus WRC06, he beat dou­ble Euro­pean Cham­pion Simon Jean-​Joseph by just 2.09 sec­onds, with for­mer win­ner Paul Bird third, both in Focus WRC08.
IMG 7277 Roger Skeete Louis Venezia WRC1 challenging Rob Swann and Aled Edwards Subaru Impreza WRC S11 England  Wales After the results were made final yes­ter­day (Mon­day), Pan­ton and co-​driver Mike Fen­nell Jnr received their awards from Gina Cum­mins, brand, com­mu­ni­ca­tions & exter­nal affairs man­ager of Sol Caribbean, at a packed Prize­giv­ing at The Boat­yard beach bar in the island’s cap­i­tal, Bridgetown. As well as tro­phies for first place, vic­tory in WRC-​1 and highest-​placed over­seas 4wd, they each received a Tis­sot watch from Lit­tle Switzer­land.

Pan­ton, who last won the event in 1998, said: “It was by far the most dif­fi­cult rally to win that I have ever com­peted in. The pace was absolutely on the limit from start to end with mere hun­dredths sep­a­rat­ing the top three on each stage. To win against such a qual­ity field means a lot; to come out on top by such a small mar­gin after three days of war was very reward­ing. This has def­i­nitely gone down in my his­tory book as the most accom­plished result.”

After months of plan­ning, the BRC had more than one rea­son to cel­e­brate its land­mark: records bro­ken included the num­ber of over­seas entries (45), over­seas par­tic­i­pants (89), first-​time over­seas par­tic­i­pants (43), cars in the 4wd classes (28) and female com­peti­tors (16). Thou­sands of island fans lined the route, par­tic­u­larly at the Fri­day evening Start and Sun­daySuper­Spe­cial at Bushy Park Bar­ba­dos and Saturday’s LIME/​Banks/​Automotive Art party stage at the Vau­cluse Race­way.With his win­ning co-​driver of 2013, Welsh­man Aled Davies, Bird won the open­ing stage on the 1.8-kilometre Race Of Cham­pi­ons par­al­lel track at Bushy Park by 0.34s, but was beaten sec­ond time around by Jean-​Joseph, from the French Caribbean island of Mar­tinique, who was co-​driven by Jack Boyere, with whom he shared his two ERC titles.IMG 6951 7367  Jeffrey Panton Michael Fennell Jnr WRC1. 1st Position 4

Jean-​Joseph had a slen­der 0.19s lead overnight, extend­ing it to 1.30s with fastest time on Saturday’s open­ing stage at Sailor Gully. Pan­ton fought back, win­ning the first Spring Vale stage to lead by 1.91s, but trailed ‘Birdy’ and SJJ on Vau­cluse – at 6.8kms, the event’s longest stage – allow­ing the French­man back into the lead.
The Jamaican made no mis­take on the sec­ond loop, win­ning all three stages to lead SJJ at the lunch break, albeit by merely 0.69s, with Bird third. Behind this bat­tling trio, for­mer World Rally Cham­pi­onship con­tender Toni Garde­meis­ter, with co-​driver Timo Alanne, was a solid fourth, eas­ing his way into the Suzuki SX4 WRC hav­ing not enjoyed a shake­down at LIME King of the Hill, as he was on WRC duty in Por­tu­gal. Last year’s runner-​up Rob Swann (Sub­aru Impreza WRC S11) and 13-​time win­ner Roger Skeete (Impreza S12) were scrap­ping over fifth place, as they would for the duration.
IMG 7092 Allan Mackay  Mo Downey Ford Anglia WRC Scotland  United Kingdom 27th Position 2Pan­ton won both after-​lunch runs of Sailor Gully and the one run through Spring Vale, while Bird twice ruled at Vau­cluse, to end the day 1.5s behind Pan­ton, with SJJ third, 5.74s adrift. The gap to Garde­meis­ter was around 38s, he in turn 54s ahead of the squab­bling Sub­arus, Swann end­ing the day 5.03s up on Skeete. Pan­ton would not claim another stage win, as Bird fought to nar­row the gap and SJJ fought back. Fastest in the east of the island on the first Drax Hall and the sec­ond Malvern (the first can­celled after a non rally-​related acci­dent), Bird was within 1.18s on Pan­ton after 18 stages, with SJJ another 4.54s behind, hav­ing won the sec­ond Drax Hall and Jack in the Box (an shorter, uphill, ver­sion of Vau­cluse).

By now, inter­mit­tent show­ers were play­ing their part in the event on the east­ern stages, then Bird spun on the sec­ond Jack in the Box, hand­ing sec­ond to SJJ, who won that and the final two stages to close within 2.09s of Pan­ton. Bird’s spin cost him sec­ond place, but whether he would have caught Pan­ton is less clear. He said: “There was very lit­tle in it all week­end and just one mis­take would be cru­cial; so it proved. Well done to Jef­frey, the best man won and it was an hon­our to bat­tle with a leg­end such as Simon.”
Gardemeister’s fourth place was never under threat and he enter­tained the huge crowd at the Super­Spe­cial — times did not count for the results — with a stun­ning dis­play of donuts. Free expres­sion was the order of the day at Bushy Park, where com­peti­tors, their ser­vice crews and fam­i­lies min­gled with mar­shals and spec­ta­tors at the finish.

Skeete finally saw Swann off for fifth place, with the top two-​wheel-​drive car sev­enth, Rhett Wat­son (BMW M3) one place bet­ter than his 2014 over­all result. As last year, the antic­i­pated 2wd bat­tle had rather petered out: top seed at eight, Josh Read (Toy­ota Star­let), was OTL by the end of Sat­ur­day; Neil Arm­strong (Star­let) lasted only three stages before his clutch cylin­der destroyed itself; Dane Skeete (Peu­geot 306 Maxi), an impres­sive sixth over­all overnight Fri­day, was out with a dropped valve after SS11; Roger May­ers (WR Star­let) dis­ap­peared at the same time with sus­pen­sion dam­age.
Wat­son said: “We were hav­ing a great fight with Dane after Roger dropped out. Just as we passed Dane for the 2wd lead, in the night time Orange Hill, we passed him on the side of the road with an issue. From there it was smooth sail­ing.” Wat­son also won Super­Mod­i­fied 12, his fourth straight class win, with Justin Camp­bell (M3) fin­ish­ing sec­ond and 15th over­all, despite dri­ving for most of Sun­day with no IMG 6898 Paul Bird WRC1 3rd Positionwind­screen, he and co-​driver Juan Watts equipped with gog­gles to pro­tect their eyes.

After Britain’s Roger Duck­worth (Impreza S6) retired with gear­box fail­ure, the fight for WRC-​2 was between his fellow-​countryman Kevin Proc­ter (Impreza S7) and local Toy­ota dealer Roger Hill (Corolla WRC), who was in con­trol after Procter’s car kept cut­ting out or refus­ing to start. Things improved for the Eng­lish­man
on Sun­day, how­ever, and he chipped away, pass­ing Hill two stages from home for the class win and eighth over­all.England’s Simon Mauger (Ford Escort MkII) com­pleted the top 10 as highest-​placed over­seas rwd, with fiancée Melanie Holmes top female co-​driver. They also won SM11 — after Dane Skeete retired, Mauger and island ace Andrew Jones fought for class and MkII supremacy, a thrilling bat­tle which only ended when Jones’s engine let go in Vau­cluse.

Group A and GpN were also incred­i­bly hard-​fought: in GpA, KotH class-​winner Ireland’s Joe McQuil­lan (Mit­subishi Lancer Evo IX) ran strongly through­out, but Rupert Lomax (Evo VI), who had been delayed by ECU prob­lems on day one worked relent­lessly
on Sun­day, the Welsh­man cut­ting the 25-​second deficit slowly but surely, pass­ing McQuil­lan on the final stage for 11th over­all and the class win.Behind them, Trinidad’s John Pow­ell (Evo IX) was hunt­ing down Andrew Mal­lalieu (Impreza N10) in GpN; after Pow­ell had issues on Sat­ur­day, the local man at one point led by 50secs, only to hit a tyre in Vau­cluse, then have a punc­ture in Sailor Gully. That left them 7.5secs aparton Sun­day morn­ing: Pow­ell chipped away, Mal­lalieu recov­ered a lit­tle in the rain, start­ing the final stage 0.25secs ahead. Despite Pow­ell beat­ing him by 1.97secs to claim GpN, Mal­lalieu described it as “the best rally of my life!”

Over­seas vis­i­tors claimed three fur­ther class wins and 11 podi­ums: win­ners were returnees Scotland’s Allan Mackay (SM10 Ford Anglia WRC for the sec­ond year in a row) and England’s Andrew Costin-​Hurley (GpB Ford Puma Evo) and new­comer Simon Tins­ley (M5 Peu­geot 205). Podium fin­ish­ers included three new­com­ers — sec­ond was England’s Steve Finch (SM10 Escort MkII), while fellow-​countryman War­ren Philliskirk (Int-​Hist Escort MkII) and New Zealand’s Nick Mar­shall (M7 Peu­geot 206 GTI 180) were third. Cheryl Spencer (Vaux­hall Astra) was the highest-​placed female dri­ver, after Shelly Taunt (Impreza N10) struck a bank on Sat­ur­day after­noon.

Repeat vis­i­tors fin­ish­ing sec­ond were England’s Rob Smith (Int-​Hist Tri­umph TR7 V8) and Nigel Wor­swick (SM11 Escort MkII), while Dick Mauger (SM10 Escort MkII), Mar­tin Stock­dale (SM12 BMW 1M Coupe) and Scotland’s Brian Wat­son (SM10 Escort MkII) claimed third-​place fin­ishes. Scotland’s Kenny Hall (M6 Ford Puma) fin­ished third, also claim­ing the high­est over­seas fwd tro­phies, while fellow-​countryman Peter Shaun Sin­clair (SM11 Escort MkII) and Jamaica’s Kyle Gregg (GpN Evo IX) fin­ished sec­ond and third in the rein­tro­duced
Sun­day Cup behind Josh Read (Star­let).

Sol Rally Bar­ba­dos (May 2931) and LIME King of the Hill (May 24) are organ­ised and pro­moted by the Bar­ba­dos Rally Club, which cel­e­brated its 55th Anniver­sary in 2012; title spon­sors are the Sol Group and LIME. Mar­ket­ing part­ners are Simp­son Motors, Auto­mo­tive Art and Banks; offi­cial part­ners are Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, the Bar­ba­dos Hotel & Tourism Asso­ci­a­tion, Bar­ba­dos Port Inc, Bar­ba­dos Tourism Mar­ket­ing Inc, Geest Line, the Tourism Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and Vir­gin Atlantic Air­ways; asso­ciate spon­sors are Chefette, Cock­spur Rum, Glacial Pure, Lit­tle Switzer­land, 104 The Beat, Red­line Fuels, REIS, Stoute’s Car Rental and Up Beat Whole­sale.
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