Panton will be competing in the new WRC-1 class in his ex-Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus WRC06 and his entry into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international brings to four the entries confirmed for this particular class vehicle.
Driving a Toyota Celica GT4 in 1998, Panton was the event’s first winner from the wider Caribbean, following local ace Roger Skeete and Ireland’s Kenny McKinstry, who had shared the earlier victories six-two. Since then, Panton has become the only driver to have won the ‘Big Three’ in regional rallying, the gravel events in Jamaica and Trinidad and the closed-road tarmac event in Barbados.
His more recent successes have been achieved with regular co-driver and fellow-Jamaican Mike Fennell Jnr.Six times the winner at home between 1994 and 2008, Panton ticked the final box in Trinidad in 2011 in an ex-Colin McRae Focus WRC00. Since replacing that with the newer car last March, he has further enhanced his reputation as a regional force by finishing second on his gravel debut in the car in Trinidad, third on his tarmac debut in Barbados, then adding victory in Rally Jamaica, the first driver to finish on the podium in all three events in the same year since Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell in 2005.
Driven to victory in the 2007 Galway International Rally by double WRC Champion Gronholm, Panton’s car is run by Dom Buckley Motorsport, which also has an impressive regional record: cars run or supported by the UK preparation experts have won the last four major events – Powell (Subaru Impreza WRC S14) achieved consecutive victories in Jamaica 2011 and Trinidad 2012, followed by former UK National Champion Paul Bird (Focus WRC08) in Sol Rally Barbados and Panton’s seventh win in Jamaica.Panton joins 12-time winner Skeete (Impreza WRC S12) and Paul Bourne (Focus WRC07), who won in 2003 and 2007, in WRC-1, where they will also face Neil Armstrong, recently confirmed as the driver of the Simpson Motors/MML Suzuki SX4 WRC for 2013.
With a further five entries already confirmed for WRC-2 (for cars built before 2004), and more in the pipeline for both classes, the organisers are confident of a record-breaking entry of WRC cars.
Panton is one of three regional entries so far posted on line. (RB)††