By Robin Bradford
(PRESS RELEASE) — Motor sport fans across the island are promised a bumper weekend of action when closed road events return for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
The non-championship Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Test Stage in St Peter on Saturday, August 22, will be followed on the Sunday by the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc’s (MCBI) ‘Hammer Time 20’ in St John, shared for the first championship points of the season by members of both clubs.
With entries already open at Motorsport Services – most drivers so far have registered for both events – a quality entry is being assembled, including Jamaican Jeff Panton and Barry Mayers, both competing in the island for the first time since retiring from Sol Rally Barbados 2019. Now fully recovered from the accident he and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr suffered in his hugely-successful Ford Focus WRC, five-time winner of the island’s premier event Panton will debut his recently-acquired Ford Fiesta WRC, in which Britain’s Damian Cole claimed the sixth of his UK Tarmac Championship titles in 2016.
Panton, who will arrive in the island early next week to start testing his new mount, said: “Hopefully, the car would have already cleared Customs and be waiting on us when we arrive. I have never seen it or driven it, as the deal was done just at the beginning of the lockdowns, so we plan on spending the week getting familiar with the car and set ups and hopefully get some test sessions in at Bushy Park.”
In common with other overseas competitors, Panton will be subject to some Covid-19 protocols associated with travel: “Jamaica protocols are pretty similar to Barbados. On our return, we will have to quarantine but, given the fact that we have never seen the car, we felt it necessary to do this.”
Mayers, who was leading 2wd when engine failure forced his retirement from Sol RB19, was heading for a wheel alignment before testing at Bushy Park’s Track Day last month, when a driver pulled out of a major junction resulting in damage to the Fiesta.
Mayers said: “Who would think the Fiesta’s first accident would have been on the road and not a rally stage? The accident was about 8Gs of force and it upset the front right suspension and chassis quite a bit.
“So, the upcoming event will be the first time I have driven since last year. We have upgraded the engine now to a 2500cc (I think it was 2150cc prior). I honestly think I should have the ability now to fight for the win in 2wd over my brother Roger’s super-quick Starlet, as we have got a bit more power and done a few more suspension upgrades. But let’s not forgot what a madman he is when he is ready!”
A raft of Covid-19 Protocols will be in effect at both events, which will be published in pre-event notices reflecting the relevant Government advice and repeated in on-event signage emphasising the required adherence. Facemasks will be available for spectators when required, along with hand sanitizer, while competitors and support crews are required to adhere to the protocols detailed in each club’s ASRs (Additional Supplementary Regulations).
Saturday’s BRC Test Stage will cover a 1.5-kilometre course at Orange Hill in St Peter; although a non-championship event, it will be marshalled in the usual way with a full complement of volunteers, including a timing crew. Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard says: “We are aiming to start at 2 pm and will run the stage until perhaps 5.00 pm to 5.30 pm. We’re trying let the competitors have as many runs as possible on the stage, but it seems prudent not to overdo it ahead of the following day’s Sprint.”
The MCBI’s Hammer Time 20 is scheduled to start at 10.00 am on Sunday; the double-header format will run from Henley to Cherry Grove in St John and reverse, creating two points-scoring opportunities for competitors in both the MCBI’s 2020 Championship and Rally Club’s annual Driver’s and Class Championships.
Revised Sol Rally Barbados FAQ document published
Following the announcement in July of the revised dates for Sol Rally Barbados 2020 (October 31/November 1) and Flow King of the Hill (October 25), the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC) has been working with its event partners on arrangements to take into account the ‘new normal’ under Covid-19 protocols. The result is an updated FAQ document, to be published today (Friday) on the event web site, rallybarbados.net.
The document confirms the restructuring of Sol RB20, which becomes a two-day event with the Prizegiving at the end of Sunday, while the format for the previous weekend’s KotH remains unchanged. Bushy Park Barbados will again house Rally Central, home base for many of the overseas visitors, and additionally play host to Scrutineering on Saturday, October 24, and the mid-week Briefing Meeting (October 28).
Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard said: “In light of the challenges presented by the pandemic, the event has been scaled back – but only marginally. We have simply abandoned the Friday night start and the associated stages, so the event is now planned to be 19 stages over the two days. We are actually reconfiguring the entire event, and due to an anticipated reduction in entries are trying some different things in terms of the route, which might not have been possible with a larger number of starters. Naturally, we’re also working through a number of Covid-19 protocols that we will need to implement for volunteers, competitors and spectators.”