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PRESS RELEASE – Fresh from completing a hat-trick of wins in the only major forest rally in the south of England two weeks ago, Sol Rally Barbados regular Rob Swann has confirmed his entry for Sol RB16.
With five months to go before the closing date, entries posted on-line at www.rallybarbados.nethave soared past 50, with all but a handful from overseas.
Having celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its premier event this year, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) has announced that Sol RB16 will run from June 3 to 5, with Scrutineering and King of the Hill on May 28/29.
Swann won the Tempest Rally (November 7), based in the military town of Aldershot, in a Ford Fiesta R5, rented specifically for the event.
With his Subaru Impreza WRC S11 still in tarmac trim, and the engine at zero kilometres after a rebuild, he decided on an alternate plan, but one not without risks, as he explained to rallybarbados.net before the start: “I wanted to try a Fiesta R5, and it made sense to do it on an event I know well, but the opposition is pretty strong, so I’m not sure it was such a clever idea.”
Reunited with co-driver Darren Garrod, however, Swann was on the attack from the start. Fastest on the first three stages, he built up a 15-second lead, but that dropped to 3secs when his closest rival, Martyn England (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) won SS4. Fastest on the next three stages, Swann built his lead back up to 18secs, although England won two more stages to finish 12secs adrift at the end of the day’s 10 stages.
Looking back on his third consecutive win, Swann said: “I had a fantastic day and achieved everything I set out to do, except winning every stage. It was great to win three in a row and to be reunited with Darren. The Tempest is a brilliant event, well run, with great marshals, and is one of the best end-of-year events around.”
On his first competitive experience of the Fiesta R5, Swann said: “The car was great, although I needed a little time to adjust: I had not driven it before the event and not been in left-hand-drive since 2001 on Wales Rally GB. The chassis and brakes are incredible, although it lacks the power of the WRC cars.” If his schedule allows, he may drive one again on some rounds of the British Rally Championship, which is being re-launched in a new format in 2016.
Second place in 2014 is Swann’s his best finish since his 2008 Barbados debut; he finished 25 seconds behind Roger Skeete (Impreza S12) and roughly the same margin ahead of Trinidad’s John Powell, competing for the first time in his Ford Focus WRC08.
Last year, with the Impreza not running well, he was sixth, his third top six finish. He had previously been fifth, in a rented Impreza S12 in 2011, his first appearance in Barbados in a World Rally Car, having won Group N and finished ninth overall the previous year in an Impreza N14; the same year, he won Group N in Rally Jamaica, the first – and so far only – driver to do the double in the same year.
New Zealand fans hear about Marshall’s Caribbean adventure
Motor sport fans in New Zealand were treated to an entertaining talk on Sol Rally Barbados during the annual CHEMZ Gathering of Geezers, a gala fund-raising dinner at the Warbirds and Wheels Museum at Wanaka. Mike Marshall, who made the 29,000-kilometre round trip to compete in Sol RB15, joined other Kiwi motor sport legends including seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Jim Richards, former Superbike racer Aaron Slight and multiple Women’s Water Speed World Record-holder Heather Spurle.
Marshall was New Zealand’s top driver in the early 1970s, regularly winning more stages than anyone else – even against international competition – and was part of the Woolmark Ford Team in Rally New Zealand in 1973, finishing second to team-mate Hannu Mikkola. He won the event two years later – the global fuel crisis cancelled the 1974 event – in what was the first International success for the MkII Escort.
The Gathering of Geezers (November 11) is a celebration of motor sport, each ‘Geezer’ sitting at a table, chatting to guests; the Geezers rotate as the evening progresses, with a handful also interviewed for the whole audience by the face of Sky Sports television coverage in New Zealand, Stephen McIvor.
Marshall’s partner Heather reports: “Mike’s talk on Sol Rally Barbados was well received by all and considered one of the best of the night. Quite a few people came up afterwards asking more about Barbados and the rally!” Items auctioned to raise funds for the Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust included a painting of Marshall’s car on Sol RB15, team caps with the Sol RB logo and bottles of island rum.
Although the details are not yet firmed up, the Marshalls plan to return for Sol RB16 and hope to bring at least one other crew from New Zealand with them.
Sol Rally Barbados is a tarmac rally, with around 22 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the island’s Ministry of Transport & Works; Sol RB16 and the previous Sunday’s King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ event, are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017.
Sol RB16 marks the ninth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.