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(PRESS RELEASE) – Britain’s Kevin Procter will “come back stronger” when he competes in Sol Rally Barbados for the 13th time this year, having equalled his best-ever result of fourth in Sol RB17.
The flamboyant Yorkshireman confirmed his participation shortly after finishing second in last Saturday’s (December 30) Christmas Stages Rally at Croft Circuit in the north of England, where freezing overnight temperatures threw up some tough challenges for the 80-plus starters.
He will contest the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international in the Procter’s Coaches Ford Fiesta, the third overseas entry confirmed for the WRC-1 category, joining the Subaru Impreza WRC S12Bs of Graham Coffey and Rob Swann, who finished eighth and second respectively in Sol RB17. Procter’s co-driver will again be Andrew Roughead, who sat with him in Barbados for the first time last year.
Organised by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC), which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017, 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 for the 29th running of the Club’s premier event opened on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – more than 50 have been posted, with record interest from overseas.
Second place last year for Swann and Darren Garrod equalled their best result, while Britain’s Roger Duckworth (Impreza S6), co-driven by Alun Cook, claimed his first podium and a fourth win in WRC-2. Duckworth had been up to 9secs behind Procter and Roughead earlier on Sunday, but he hunted him down, took third place on the final Malvern, leaving Procter only the two kilometres inside Bushy Park Barbados to claw back the time.
Procter said: “I made good time on Roger on Saturday, and I was pleased with that. But he always was quicker on the Sunday stages. The Super Special at the end around Bushy Park, it was more like a rallycross sort of thing, so I was thinking I might just be able to hold him off, but he got me. It was good sport all day on the Sunday. We’ve brought the car back, found a little bit more power, which is good, so hopefully, I might just get that third place.
“We’ll definitely come back stronger this year, I wouldn’t miss Rally Barbados. The only downside for me is that my wife and family won’t be able to come as my daughter’s in her last year at school, so she has her GCSEs, so it’ll have to be a ‘boys only’ event.”
Hugely popular with fans for his flamboyant and attacking driving style, Procter has now claimed nine top 10 results, including victory in WRC-2, catering for World Cars built before the end of 2003, in his Impreza S7 in Sol RB15. He has also been highest-placed European driver (RB05, Ford Puma Evo 4 x 4) and highest-placed overseas driver (RB04, Ford Escort Cosworth).
Procter and long-term co-driver Dave Bellerby have won the Christmas Stages at Croft seven times since 2008 in the Impreza S7 that regularly travelled to Barbados, although he retired the Fiesta from the 2016 event with head gasket failure. Last Saturday, the start was delayed until track conditions began to improve, despite which the front-running drivers – Procter and Bellerby were seeded at number two – were still clearing the road, the later runners benefitting from better conditions.
After the first of the scheduled eight 6.10-mile stages, Procter was 75th, with a time three minutes slower than the early leaders Ryan Fagan/Jamie McTavish, seeded at 96 and the last starters in their Ford Escort MkII; for safety reasons, the organisers had doubled the start intervals from 30 to 60 seconds, and the conditions had improved significantly over 90 minutes or so.
While Procter made progress through the field, 51st after SS2, 12th after SS4, others were doing the same, including the crew of Simon de Banke and Phil Mills in a Fiesta R5; having started at 16, they did not lose as much time as Procter on the opening stage and held on for the victory, by 45 seconds over six stages, the late start resulting in the final two stages of the day being cancelled. Procter was typically laid back about the result: “Rally was good. Must try harder!”