Rewriting rally history

clarke becomes first six-time winner of oldest motosport event

Navigator Wayne Clarke rewrote the Barbados Rally Club’s history books for the second time in four years in last weekend’s Sol Go Further June Safari, when he became the first six-time winner of the region’s oldest motor sport event with a continuous history.

His fourth success with driver Chris Armstrong came more than 20 years after the first of his two victories as navigator to Don Hunte, in 1991, and moves him one win ahead of Leslie Alleyne, who had drawn level on five last year.

The successful running of the first June Rally in 1957 was the catalyst for the BRC’s formation in the following months and it has been run annually ever since — this was the 57th edition and formed round three of the Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship. Route-setters were Alleyne and last year’s winning navigator Chris O’Neal.

The 2012 champion navigator and driver were returning to action in their Toyota Hilux for the first time this season, after a lay-off while Armstrong recovered from a back injury and he was delighted to join the list of four-time winners, along with Sean Gill, Hunte, Andrew Mallalieu and Richard Rose.

“As a 60-year-old driver, it is an achievement. It was a lovely rally . . . Leslie did a nice job. It was a team effort, we both had to be on the ball, because average speeds were quick. As number 24, it was difficult at times, getting stuck behind others, which made it challenging to keep to time. Experience was definitely an advantage . . . and we can’t complain that there wasn’t mud. The most challenging was Cherry Tree Hill approaching midnight – going downhill, it was hard to control the vehicle in the clay and mud,” Clarke said.

Clarke added: “Chris has prepared a fantastic vehicle that can keep up with most challenges. It was one of the best rallies for a long time, as you had to keep your head on at all times . . . I would encourage the young crews not to give up, keep at it, you’ll get there in the end. Leslie always sets good tricks and we got caught in some. There was good competition among the top three crews, making it a good event. Rallies aren’t won over one route but they can be lost by one mistake. We had a rough route one but came back in the end.”

Indeed, Armstrong and Clarke were eighth after that first route, which was won by another former winner of the June event, Derek Gill, with navigator Andrew Croney in his Mitsubishi Pajero – they were just two penalty points ahead of Ryan Corbin/Dustin Edwards (Toyota Hilux), 96 to 98, with Aswad Bannister/Andre Murrell (Toyota Hilux) third on 234.

Although they won route two, Armstrong and Clarke were recovering from a 300-point deficit, so second place on route two was sufficient to put Corbin and Edwards into the lead, albeit not for long. A second route win in the early hours of the morning put Armstrong and Clarke ahead, where they stayed to the finish, beating Corbin and Edwards by a margin of 169 points.

Gill and Croney, the only crew to finish in the top three on all four routes, were a further 218 points adrift but nearly 1200 points ahead of George and Gary Mendes (Mitsubishi L200). They prevailed in a close-fought battle for fourth place, fewer than 200 points separating them from Simon Bayley/Paul Marshall (Isuzu D-Max) and Bannister/Murrell, who had failed to maintain their early form.

Six of the nine crews entered fought their way in to the top three Chefette Novices over the course of the four routes, with Dave Gibson/Andy Williams (Suzuki Samurai) taking the early lead after route one from Richard Hinkson/Rasheed Mapp (Suzuki Samurai), with Chris Thornhill/Michael Rodriguez (Land Rover Defender) third.

Thornhill/Rodriguez moved into the lead with victory on route two, then won the remaining two routes — with an impressive overall win on route four, deemed to be the trickiest – to finish 11th overall and win top Chefette Novice by 663 penalties. Fourth on route one, then third and twice second, Joshua Plaza/Rashid Nakhuda (Suzuki Samurai) moved steadily up the order to finish second, with Gibson/Williams third.

It was only Thornhill’s second Safari. “It was challenging, the length of time, it took, but the conditions weren’t too bad,” Thornhill said.

Navigator Rodriguez agreed. “The 16 hours was a real challenge. I didn’t find it as tricky as I had expected, but you had to be thinking the whole event.”

The longest event in the MudDogs calendar, the Sol Go Further June Safari started at Sol Redman’s Village at 3 p.m. on Saturday, crews tackling four routes spread far and wide across the island, before the finish and breakfast on Sunday.

Route-setter Alleyne said: “The marshals were brilliant and were where they were assigned to be every time, to make the event run seamlessly – this is an amazing feat, considering there were 95 manned controls. It was most gratifying to hear all the positive feedback about the event, the competitors really seemed to have had great fun – everyone who finished is a winner. I couldn’t have asked for it to come off any better.

“We must also thank Sol for supporting the event again, and I am delighted to say they were very pleased with the response they got, especially from their promotion at the start at Sol Redman’s Village. There had been some rain and trying to keep the grass under control was an issue, but we went through the route on Friday in the Isuzu D-Max and it made it, so I knew it was do-able.”

MudDogs chairman Darnley Rayside concluded. “It was a tribute to our route setters – a well-planned, flawless safari. There was a good turnout, and it was encouraging to see some out for the first time this season. Now, we all look forward to September.” (RB)

Top ten finishers:

1st Chris Armstrong/Wayne Clarke (Toyota Hilux), 1,205 penalties

2nd Ryan Corbin/Dustin Edwards (Toyota Hilux), 1,374 pens

4th George Mendes/Gary Mendes (Mitsubishi L200), 2,787 pens

5th Simon Bayley/Paul Marshall (Isuzu D-Max), 2,918 pens

6th Aswad Bannister/Andre Murrell (Toyota Hilux), 2969 pens

7th Dominic Straker/Adam Hunte (Land Rover Discovery), 3,237 pens

8th Gregory Dickenson/Rorie McConney (Toyota Hilux), 3,725 pens

9th Nicolas Lorde/Brett Barber (Land Rover Discovery), 4,343 pens

10th Mark Western/Jeremy Croney (Nissan Patrol), 4,847 pens

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