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(PRESS RELEASE) — Four newcomers to rallying in the Caribbean are among the record-equalling 22 female participants in Sol Rally Barbados 2019, the 30th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event.
While England’s Cheryl Spencer is this year’s only driver, the list of co-drivers includes first-time visitors Jane Nicol and Nikki Addison, who both won titles in last year’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Rally Championship (SRC).
Sol RB19 will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show on the previous Saturday (May 25) followed Flow King of the Hill at its new location of Stewarts Hill on Sunday, May 26; the Geest Line freighter Baltic Klipper is due at the island’s Bridgetown Port tomorrow, carrying more than 30 cars from the UK.
With husband Barry co-driving their Vauxhall Astra, the Spencers return to compete for the sixth time, although their story starts in 2007, when they visited to spectate. Within a year, Cheryl had been to a rally school, bought the Astra, and competed in Sol RB08, the only time they have failed to record an overall finish, when the wiring loom caught fire. They also got married at The Boatyard, then renewed their vows on their 10th Anniversary last year. The best of their four finishes came in Sol RB14, when local competitor Chris Williams lent them his Ford Fiesta, in which they finished 35th overall and second in Modified 6. For Sol RB19, they have moved up to Modified 2.
Cheryl says: “The car is on its way, so we’re excited now. We are lucky to have support from Barbados businesses Dover Beach Hotel – yet again! – the Marco Polo Bar & Grill, Happy Days Café and Scoopies Jazz Bar, and our UK sponsors Allcars, Byngs Autos, Prestige Bodyshop and Waterfront Accident Repair. Without them, we couldn’t do this.”
While the Spencers will celebrate their wedding anniversary, there are others marking a big date. Having missed entering for his 60th birthday in 2014, Yorkshire’s Graham Haigh eventually made it to Sol RB18 in his G Haigh & Sons/Tanfield Engineering Services/Army Sales Ford Escort MkII, with co-driver Kari Bates, who has already been back to the island for a holiday: “It is certainly somewhere I’ve literally fallen in love with. When we competed last year, as a ‘trip of a lifetime’, our friends warned us that we’d become addicted, and they sure weren’t wrong! And we have a good excuse for 2019, as Graham will be celebrating his 65th birthday while we are there.”
Among others, those warnings came from Jon and Alison Trenholme, who have competed for the past two years, but are back this year purely for a holiday.
And it’s a celebration, too, for Jane Nicol, who will co-drive for Fraser Louden: “It is a reward to myself for winning last year’s SRC and then Wales Rally GB National with Andrew Gallacher. Also Scottish photographer Eddie Kelly is celebrating his 50th, so he’ll be along for the trip, too.”
Nikki Addison won her Scottish title last year as a driver, finishing second in class in her Peugeot 106 with co-driver Rachel Matheson, but will co-drive for John Macleod in his Talbot Sunbeam in Barbados.
Also from Scotland come first-timer Laura Connell in Andy Scott’s Ford Fiesta R5 and Vanessa Hamilton, who returns for a third year, this time sitting with Ireland’s Kevin Flanagan (Mini Cooper S), after competing with husband Robin in their Talbot Sunbeam and MG Metro 6R4. There are also female participants from Canada (Chantal Ullyett, with father Chris in a Ford Escort RS2000), Jamaica (Terry Hamilton, in Harold Morley’s Porsche 911RS), the Netherlands (Fenny Wesselink, with Scotland’s Kenny Hall in a Ford Puma S1600) and Wales (Linda Thomas, with husband Gary in their MkII Escort).
Former class-winners in Barbados – Historics on their first visit in the Sparrow Hill Cars Ford Escort MkII in 2014 – Chris Shooter and his partner Bev LeGood are also returning. Once regulars in the British Historic Rally Championship – they won their class in 2008 and the Shekhar Mehta ‘Spirit of Rallying’ Award the following year – they now limit their rallying to a handful of events, usually outside mainland Britain, including the Jersey Rally and, last year, an Escort celebration in Belgium. They shook the Escort down with an overall finish on the Donington Rally in March, on a challenging wet and windy day.
Most of the seven local female co-drivers have been regular competitors in recent years, some also involved in the sport as volunteer marshals or organisers. British-born Lindsay Pilkington has been co-driver to Andrew Jones, now her husband, for the past five years, in his MkII Escort, the couple having twice finished in the top 10 since Sol RB14.
Lindsay won the BRC’s year-end Female Co-driver Award four years in a row, but was unseated last year by Nats Farnum. Once a successful circuit racer – the first Bajan female to win a race at Bushy Park, in 2002, when still at school – Nats now prefers co-driving; she and Greg Cozier have claimed five Sol Rally Barbados class wins in the past six years in his Historic Escort RS.
Tammy Lashley is co-driving for island rallying legend and 13-time winner of the BRC’s premier event, Roger Skeete; he and son Dane have switched cars this year, Roger now campaigning the Peugeot 306 Maxi in which Dane finished eighth overall last year. She already has a class win to her credit – in Group B1 as co-driver to Chris Ullyett in Sol RB16 – and was also an overall finisher last year, with Luke Cozier in Clubman 2.
Leslie Evanson is another experienced co-driver, now sitting with Jamaican-born Pierre Beswick of the Turks & Caicos Motoring Club in a Citroen C2 R2 MAX; Leslie was the Historic class-winner with English visitor Steve Wood, when they finished 36th overall in Sol RB08 in his Mini Cooper. After Gayle Hutchinson was the co-driver in Car Zero with Ryan Wood in Sol RB17, she made her competitive debut in the event last year, co-driving for husband Spencer, finishing third in Clubman 2 in their BimmaCup.
Tiffani Bannister returns with Calvin Briggs in the Group B Ford Sierra, hoping for a better run than last year, when they were non-finishers in Sol RB18, having finished fifth in class at Flow King of the Hill, while it is a few years since Kelly-Ann Sandiford joined Owen Cumberbatch as co-driver in his BMW M3.
Sol Rally Barbados (May 31-June 2) and Flow King of the Hill (May 26) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Title sponsors: The Sol Group and Flow. Major partners: Automotive Art, Banks, Chefette, Sagicor, Simpson Motors. Partners: Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Geest Line, Tourism Development Corporation. Associate sponsor: Stoute’s Car Rental