Veteran earns top ranking with sixth safari win
Victory in the Sol Go Even Further June Safari last weekend has propelled Leslie Alleyne back to the top of the Barbados Rally Club’s roll of honour for its oldest event, run for the 58th consecutive year.
He joins Wayne Clarke on six wins, two more than anyone else on the 69-strong list of previous winners. Alleyne’s sixth win comes 18 years after his first, as navigator to Geoff Noel. He won again as navigator
to Trevor Manning in 2011, with his other four victories coming in the driving seat, twice with wife Annalee and twice with Chris O’Neal.
Clarke’s six wins as navigator spread from 1991 to last year, the first two with Don Hunte, the other four with Chris Armstrong – both Armstrong and Hunte are four-time winners, along with Sean Gill, Andrew Mallalieu and Richard Rose.
Alleyne and O’Neal took the lead on the first of the four routes, which started from Sol Warrens at 2 p.m. on Saturday. They incurred just 227 penalties in the Isuzu D-Max, with Clarke and Armstrong (Toyota Hilux) on 546 and George and Gary Mendes (Mitsubishi L200 Sportero) on 579 leading the chase. Armstrong’s vehicle then developed problems, however, which could not be resolved.
Alleyne said: “We were all looking forward to a great battle, which was shaping up well at the end of Route 1. We were willing to help them repair the driveshaft and start Route 2 late if they had spare parts; unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
But their retirement did not mean Alleyne and O’Neal could relax.
Alleyne noted: “The Safari proved extremely difficult, mainly due to it being so difficult to see the roads, which stemmed from the vast amount of fires that have plagued the countryside. It is wonderful to come out on top of such a challenging event, which took more than just ability to overcome. Chris was fantastic and, as a team, we helped motivate each other, fighting tiredness . . . and at times fighting frustration, from making consecutive mistakes.”
Alleyne and O’Neal won Route 2, from Kirk Watkins and Ben Norris (Toyota Hilux), both returning after a break from the sport. Had they not incurred so many penalties on the first route, this crew might have presented a far greater challenge for the eventual winners.
They won Route 3, closing the gap to George and Gary Mendes, who had inherited second place with the demise of Armstrong and Clarke, then victory on Route 4 moved them in to second place at the finish.
Alleyne and O’Neal’s winning margin was 2,324 penalties, with Watkins and Norris 832 ahead of the Mendes crew.
Route-setters Audley, Andrew and Jeremy Croney and double ‘June’ winner Derek Gill, came in for high praise from Alleyne after the prize-giving last night, as did the team of marshals.
“Kudos to the route setters for their efforts, and for running a well-organised event; it was very well thought out. And huge thanks to the marshals, who were out there for 20 hours without sleep, and at times waiting long periods without seeing competitors. These events just can’t happen without them and we need to be so appreciative of their commitment.”
Competition was tight in the Chefette Novice Championship, with three different leaders, as the advantage see-sawed back and forth. The entry was depleted early, as Nicholas Pinto and Jamal Brathwaite (Grand Cherokee) did not start, while John Pinto and Adam Hunte (GMC Sonoma) encountered mechanical problems during the first driver challenge and retired.
Richard Hinkson and Dean Springer (Suzuki Samurai) led the novices after Route 1, although only 40 penalties covered the leading three crews. Victory on Route 2 – by a margin of more than 700 penalties – gave the upper hand to Damien and Brandon Johnson (Suzuki Samurai), who maintained their lead after Route 3, despite finishing second to Hinkson/Springer.
But there was a final twist. Julian Kirton and Dominic Straker (Jeep Wrangler) claimed a commanding advantage in Route 4, to become novice winners by nearly 1,500 penalties. Simon Parravicino and Jonathan Millar (Suzuki Samurai) finished fourth – after a particularly tough time on Route 2, their form improved significantly on Routes 3 and 4.
Sunday was the World Forum Foundation’s International Mud Day, with events staged across the globe, and Safari organisers had been hoping that inclement weather at the end of last week might put the mud back into MudDogs . . . but it was not to be.
“Although we had some rain, it did not affect the Safari, as the sun came out on Saturday and it quickly dried up. The real challenges along the routes were because of the many fires we have had this year.
“This made some tracks difficult to find – as a marshal, I could see the frustration on the competitors’ faces when they approached me. All in all, I think we had a fantastic Safari – as you know, not everything in life is easy; if it was, it would be boring,” MudDogs chairman Ricky Holder said.
Competitors in the Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship now enjoy a summer break, with two rounds remaining, slated for September 21 and November 9.