Plans underway for SOL Rally
The Barbados Rally Club is planning to make Sol Rally Barbados 2015 “a real classic” worthy of the 25th anniversary of the first running of its International All-Stage Rally in 1990. Sol Rally Barbados 2015 will run on Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31, with scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend.
Neil Barnard, PRO of the organising club, explained: “As usual, we are focused on the core values of our premier event – a seriously competitive rally, fought out in a relaxed, clubman-style atmosphere – but are determined to make next year especially memorable. As well as social events to mark the anniversary, plans are in hand for Sol Rally Barbados 2015 to be a real classic, worthy of this important milestone in the club’s history.
“We are getting enquiries about the dates pretty much every day, particularly from our core markets overseas, now that the school holidays are coming to an end and families start planning for next year. Our thanks go to the island’s governing body, the Barbados Motoring Federation, for allowing us to confirm our dates before publication of the ratified BMF calendar so we can give our many long-term supporters time to prepare.”
Online entries will open on the official web site – www.rallybarbados.net – on October 1, with the closing date in mid-May 2015. In recent years, entry numbers have risen significantly, particularly from overseas crews keen to tackle what is described by many as a “must-do event”, and organisers are urging early online entry.
Since 2011, 85 first-time visitors have pushed the number of regional and international participants hosted by the event up to more than 380, a total which looks set to burst through the 400 mark next year. The biggest competitor base is still Britain and Ireland, but the event has attracted competitors from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Japan, Kenya, South Africa and the United States, as well as mainland Europe.
Barnard added: “We have welcomed at least 20 new competitors each year since 2011, and the enquiries about our 25th anniversary event suggest that trend will continue. We are confident of a further influx of newcomers from the UK and Ireland, while one long-established family of competitors from New Zealand even timed their holiday to coincide with Sol Rally Barbados 2014, so they could have a close-up look at the event . . . and they got it, helping one of the British teams out as service crew.
“I would encourage international crews to enter early, as the first 30 will again benefit from subsidies, especially those who have competed in previous years. It is fantastic that Sol Rally Barbados is on the ‘must-do’ list for so many overseas competitors, and a well-deserved tribute to those volunteer marshals and officials who help the Barbados Rally Club stage an event which measures up to world-class standards.”
From small beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally in 1990, the BRC’s premier event has grown into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international and a key player in the country’s sports-tourism product. It contributes nearly BDS $4 million to the island’s economy each year, much of it in vital foreign exchange, and accounts for approaching 4,000 visitor nights at a traditionally quiet time in the tourism calendar.
Barbados rallying legend Roger Skeete has won 13 of the 25 events, including the first International All-Stage Rally in 1990 and Sol Rally Barbados 2014 in June. Northern Ireland’s Kenny McKinstry was the first international winner in 1993; he won again in 1996, before fellow countryman Kris Meeke (2008 & 2009) and then England’s Paul Bird (2012 & 2013) upped the total of international victories to six. Only two regional drivers have won, Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (1998) and Gary Gregg (2006), with the remaining victories shared by local drivers Paul Bourne (twice), Trevor Manning and Roger Mayers.