Mark Western and Robin Hinds won last Saturday’s Chefette April Safari by the smallest possible margin – one penalty point.
The result was the closest finish in a navigational event since the Toyota November Safari of 2005, when they were also involved but as the losers, by two points, to Lindsay Farmer and Megan Blades.
Aboard a Nissan Patrol, Western and Hinds were trailing at the end of route 1, 69 penalty points behind Audley and Jeremy Croney (Suzuki Vitara). Despite a detour after the first driver challenge at Edgecombe to repair a broken steering arm, they made back the time, then won route two by 70 points and the event overall by just one.
Western said afterwards: “The route-setter did a great job. In route 1, we were 45 minutes late due to steering issues, and the most challenging part was getting to the controls before they closed.”
The repair lasted almost until the end of route 2, with the 2007 champion driver and navigator having to nurse the Nissan to the finish.
Route-setter Jason Downey also earned praise from others at Monday’s prizegiving at the BCTSA Club House, even from Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’Neal (Isuzu D-Max), who had won the opening round of the 2013 Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship last month.
Along with the first and second finishers, Alleyne and O’Neal are among the island’s most experienced navigational crews, but they have now adopted new nicknames – ‘Dumb and Dumber’.
Downey explained: “Route 1 used both Tulip and BRC navigation, switching after the first driver challenge. Everyone found the route easy and enjoyable up to around 4:30p.m. when a trick at Andromeda Gardens caught almost everyone out. If the crews did not get it right, they would drive 10kms less route than they should, miss two direction checks and arrive almost 20 minutes early for two check points.”
Alleyne and O’Neal did not even realise they had been tricked until the end of the route.
Alleyne said: “There was a brilliant trick on the BRC, and we just didn’t pick it up. At first, we plotted wrong then changed, but in a true ‘Dumb and Dumber’ moment, we overlooked the obvious and as a result we lost time.”
Despite finishing second in route 2, just 13 penalties behind Western and Hinds, all was lost, and they finished 10th overall.
One of the most impressive performances of the day came from Simon Bayley (Isuzu D-Max) who finished third driving in his first-ever Safari, with the experienced Andrew Croney, 2006 champion navigator, alongside.
Third on route 1 and eighth on route 2, Bayley has been bitten by the Safari bug and said he would be the first to sign up for the Sol Go Further June Safari.
The Chefette April Safari was 170kms long and touched 10 of the island’s 11 parishes, with St Philip missed by just 20 metres.
MudDogs chairman Darnley Rayside said: “Jason has set the bar very high for Safaris this year, and I hope he does not wait another nine years before setting the next one. Winning margins of less than 100 are rare, those in single figures even more so, just two in recent years.”
In the Chefette Novice Championship, rivals Joshua Plaza and Damien Johnson (Suzuki Samurai) prevailed, having trailed Dean Springer/Steve Singh (Suzuki Sidekick) after route 1, while the highest-placed female competitor was Renata Roett, eighth overall with Aswad Bannister. (RB)††