(PRESS RELEASE) – Three of the island’s most accomplished drivers, Roger Hill, Andrew Jones and Neil Corbin, head the list of early local entries confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2018.
Each will be seeking to add to his previous tally of class wins, while Hill is also homing in on his 20th top 10 finish in the 29-year history of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event.
Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill on May 26/27. In the three months since entries opened on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – approaching 60 have been posted, with record interest from overseas.
During the event’s first decade, when it was known as the International All-Stage Rally, local Toyota dealer Hill competed in a Toyota Starlet, with two fourth places his best finishes among five top 10 results, also chalking up two class wins. He switched to a Toyota Corolla GT4 in 2000, which he campaigned for the next eight years, claiming his best finish – second – in 2003, which was also the first of four consecutive years of Modified 8 class wins.
By now teamed with his current co-driver Graham Gittens, Hill again upgraded his machinery in 2009, acquiring the Corolla WRC in which current Citroen WRC crew Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle won Sol Rally Barbados that year. He has added seven more top 10 finishes in the past decade and is always a force to reckon with in the WRC-2 class for cars built before the end of 2003.
After a bare-shell rebuild by his regular engineer Dave Crawford during the winter, the Esso/Nassco/MaxMeyer/MotorMac/Pennzoil Corolla finished sixth overall and second in WRC-2 in Sol RB17, raising Hill’s tally of top 10 finishes in the event to 19. Only 13-time winner Roger Skeete has more, with 20.
With co-driver and wife Lindsay Pilkington, Jones has clocked up two top 10 finishes in the AP Jones Pharmacy/Southern Surf Beach Apartments/Caribbean Powder Coating/Lucozade Ford Escort MkII; in Sol RB14, they finished ninth overall, winning SuperModified 11 for the second straight year, then finished 10th last year, losing out on victory in SM13 by just three seconds to the BMW M3 of Justin Campbell and Juan Watts.
He has campaigned his Escort in the island’s premier event since 2003, moving between the Modified and SuperModified classes along the way, sometimes running in Group B, then changed up to SM3 in 2017, taking on the might of the BMW M3s; he finished second overall in the Barbados Rally Club’s Champion Driver title chase last year – he was five points shy of Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton in his all-conquering Ford Focus WRC06 – in his most successful season to date.
A larger-than-life character in island motor sport, ‘Jonesy’ and Lindsey organised a ‘Rum Shop Bus Tour’ for the overseas visitors to Sol RB17, which was such a success that it is set to become an annual fixture, listed for the Monday after Flow King of the Hill in the schedule for this year.
Corbin is another with responsibilities outside the rally car, as he is the Competition Secretary of the BRC. The Club’s Champion Driver in 2012 and a four-time year-end Class Champion, he has campaigned a Starlet since 2006, steadily developing the car, switching between the Modified and SuperModified groups much like Jones. Since 2012, he and co-driver Matthew Staffner have won their class on Sol Rally Barbados in five out of six years, propelling the Nassco/H Jason Jones/Auto Solutions/Emtage Electric/Valvoline/Hino Trucks Toyota Starlet well up the overall finishing order.
They finished a career-best 12th last year, winning SM1 in their first season in the category, having previously won Modified 6, which became M1 under the latest set of Vehicle Regulations, four times.
The two weekends of Flow King of the Hill and Sol Rally Barbados are vital to local drivers chasing points in the BRC Driver’s and Class Championships, as they represent three of the qualifying rounds; KotH is round two, then Friday and Saturday of Sol RB18 round three and the Sunday round four. With no dropped scores in the seven-round Championships, these two midsummer weekends can make all the difference.
Fans hope weather holds off for UK weekend fixtures
Rally fans in the UK are hoping that snow and freezing temperatures do not hinder the running of Sunday’s (January 21) much-anticipated Cartersport Jack Frost Stages at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, which has attracted its best entry in years, many of the leading runners with Sol Rally Barbados connections.
Winner for Bentley of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2003, Guy Smith starts at number 1 in his Ford Focus WRC08, with co-driver Patrick Walsh, who will return for a second visit to Barbados this year with Graham Coffey; island regular Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta) and Derek Fawcett start at two, with double Sol RB winner Paul Bird (Focus WRC08) at three with in-demand co-driver Jack Morton, who will have driven more than 250 miles north after competing in the Brands Hatch Stages on Saturday. At six is Peter Stephenson (Subaru Impreza WRC S6), with co-driver Ian Windress, who twice finished second in Sol RB as co-driver for ‘Birdy’.
Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB18 marks the 11th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the third by communications provider Flow.