Solid start to island season ahead of Rally Barbados

Rally Barbados 2024 organisers are predicting a bumper year for local entries when the 34th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event is staged in two months’ time (May 31-June 2). The island’s new season started on a high note on Sunday (March 24) as fans turned out in their numbers to cheer on more than 40 drivers in the year’s first closed-road event, a record number for a seasonal curtain-raiser in recent years.

RB24 has its roots in the International All-Stage Rally of 1990, since when the event has evolved into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International and a key component in the promotion of ‘Motorsport Island’. The Rally Show and King of the Hill (KotH), the final shakedown and seeding event, will be staged on May 25 and 26.

The Motoring Club Barbados Inc’s (MCBI) Spring Blaze Double-Header at the weekend attracted 43 entries, including 10 in the R5 class – also a record for an opening round – with new drivers, new car-driver combinations, new liveries and returning fan favourites giving spectators their first chance to weigh up the prospects for the season.

RB24 Rally Director Neil Barnard said: “We already have more than 50 locals entered for this year and a good few that competed on Sunday are not yet on that list. There were some really close battles on and, given the numbers, this looks set to be the year that island rallying fully recovers from the effects of the pandemic.”

Double Rally Barbados winner Dane Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12) won in the first direction on a 7.5-kilometre stage in St John, Jamaica’s Kyle Gregg (Ford Fiesta Rally2) the winner in the reverse, with Rob Swann (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) of the UK second both times. In Modified 4, Kyle Catwell and Kurt Thompson shared the victories, Catwell in action for the first time since RB23 in his Audi TT, while Thompson made his 4wd debut in the ex-George Sherman Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

Many fans were focussed on the 2wd battles with the return of former Champion Rhett Watson in his SuperModified 2 BMW M3, in which he won 2wd in each direction, leaving a handful of 4wds in his wake. Barry Mayers (SM2 Ford Fiesta) was second in the first direction, seventh-tenths off Watson but only getting 80 per cent throttle, while Neil Corbin (M2 Toyota GT86 CS-R3) was second in the reverse, which Mayers did not drive.

There were also strong runs in SM2 from Calvin Briggs and Jason Harewood: off-season work on the Briggs Ford Sierra’s suspension has brought it up to the SM2 weight bracket from Group B, improved the handling and made it easier to drive, while Harewood was clearly enjoying being back behind the wheel of His Toyota Starlet.

Also competing for the first time since RB23, double BRC Champion Driver Edward Corbin has moved his Daihatsu Charmant up from M1 to SM1; he finished 2secs behind reigning MCBI Champion Driver Tremaine Forde-Catwell (Charmant) in the first run but won in the reverse, with another returnee Carlos Edwards (Citroen C2) and Kevin Wiggins (Toyota Starlet) taking one third place apiece.

Back in their BimmaCup cars after competing on the previous weekend’s West Cork Rally in Ireland in a pair of Ford Escorts, Chris Hoad and Ryan Wood shared first and second places in Clubman 2, with improving youngsters David-Anthony Balgobin and Savio Walcott scrapping over the places. With newcomers including Group B duo Ryan Boyce (Toyota Levin) and Sean Merritt (Starlet), plus Seth Edwards, who shared the Citroen C2 with his uncle Carlos, there are clear signs of growth in the sport; the next chance to gain more pointers to form will be the BRC Shakedown Stages (April 28).

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