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French ace for Sol Rally

Double European Rally Champion, France’s Simon Jean-Joseph, will contest both LIME King of the Hill on May 24 and Sol Rally Barbados from May 29 to 31.

Simon Jean-Joseph

Simon Jean-Joseph

He will drive the Ford Focus WRC08 entered by Trinidad’s John Powell, who is now unable to compete, owing to business commitments. His co-driver is Jack Boyere, who partnered him from 2002, including sharing both ERC titles in 2003 and 2007.

Jean-Joseph is one of only two Frenchmen to have won the ERC twice –– Bernard Darniche did so in the 1970s – and the only one to have won French Championship titles on asphalt, gravel and in the amateur category. While he retired from competition after winning his third French title in 2011, he is still heavily involved, as gravel crew for double World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier in both his WRC title-winning campaigns.

Joining Finland’s Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki SX4) on a quality entry list that breaks a host of records for the island’s premier event, Jean-Joseph will face a tough challenge from local ace and 13-time winner Roger Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12), Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton (Focus WRC06) and Britain’s Paul Bird (Focus WRC08) and Rob Swann (Impreza S7).

Jean-Joseph said: “It is with great pleasure that I will participate in Sol Rally Barbados. When I was a professional, I was never able to come to this great event. I must say a big ‘thank-you’ to John Powell for giving me the opportunity to compete in this legendary rally. Having said that, my last tarmac rally was in 2008, so it is going to be tough.”

He started rallying in his native Martinique in the late 1980s, where he drove a wide variety of cars, Citroen AX Sport, Ford Escort RS2000, Opel Manta and Renault R5 GT Turbo, mixing front and rear-wheel-drive. His first major successes came in a Peugeot 309 GTi, winning a hat-trick of Martinique Rally Championships before he moved on to tackle the French Championship.

His first mainland campaign was short-lived. He retired from his debut WRC event –– the Tour de Corse –– in a Ford Escort Cosworth after engine failure while running inside the top 10, then claimed a handful of class wins in a Peugeot 106, before returning home; an accident in Guadeloupe in a Nissan Sunny GTiR in 1995 left him on the sidelines for six months, but he won four events in a Subaru Impreza the following year, on his way to a total of 25 regional victories by 1997.

A water-skiing accident in 2008 curtailed his career for a couple of years, but he burst back as a rally-winner in the 2011 Rallye Terre Auxerrois in a Petter Solberg-run Citroen Xsara, giving Kumho its first major victory, going on to win the French Gravel Championship that year, his last title win. (RB)

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