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Celtic invasion

Some of the vehicles headed to Barbados.

Some of the vehicles headed to Barbados.

A record-breaking Celtic ‘invasion force’ left Ireland late Wednesday afternoon to tackle the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international.

Ten rally cars were loaded on to a transporter in the north of the Emerald Isle to start the nearly 5,000-mile journey to compete in Sol Rally Barbados 2013 slated for June 1 and 2.

Having been assembled at a secret location in County Antrim, the cars left Ireland by ferry from Belfast to Birkenhead, part of a 550-mile trip to Portsmouth on the English south coast, where all the remaining cars from Europe were already being assembled. They will be loaded on to a Geest Line freighter to set sail for the 10-day voyage to Barbados on May 7, calling at a number of European and Caribbean ports on the way.

Confirmation just a few days before the transporter was loaded that Raymond Conlon, who first competed in Barbados last year, and regular visitor Glenn Campbell, would be making the trip again brought to an unprecedented 14 the number of international crews entered for the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event that has Irish connections.

Conlon had entered some months ago, but issues with sponsorship caused him to withdraw. A late change of heart, however, means he and co-driver Darren McCague will return with the Toyota Corolla in which his flamboyant driving style earned respect from island fans on his way to 30th overall and fourth in the hyper-competitive SuperModified 10 classification last year.

In the early part of this year, Conlon has done three rallies in Ireland, finishing sixth overall on both the Donegal Mini Stages and the Mayo Stages. Of his preparations for Barbados this year, he said: “Since last year, I’ve made a few changes to the car so, hopefully, I will go better in RB13.”

This is Campbell’s fifth visit, and one he hopes will eventually result in a class win. He has twice finished second in Modified 5, in 2009 and 2011, and this year pits his Nissan Micra Kit Car against a mixture of local and international entries. He has a new co-driver for 2013, Sarah Whelan, the latest member of a rally-centric Irish family to win a title, in her case champion co-driver of the 2012 Galway Motor Club.

In addition to Campbell’s Micra and Conlon’s Corolla, the transporter carried the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII of Joe McQuillan, who was instrumental in making the collective transport arrangements, the Toyota Starlets of Maurice Moffett and Danny O’Brien, the Philip Case Rally Sport-prepared Ford Escort MkII and Renault Clio R3 of Enda McCormack and Tommy Doyle, regular visitor Peter Gallagher’s Peugeot 206 and the Ford Anglia WRC and JWRC of Scotland’s Allan and Euan Mackay, whose cars are based in Ireland.

Added to the cars carried on the transporter, the record-breaking Irish contingent includes the father and son team of Eddie and Keith Power, in Toyota Corolla WRC and Renault Clio respectively, and New York-based Martin Donnelly (Evo IX). (RB)

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