Jeffrey Panton and Mike Fennell Jnr (Ford Focus WRC06) won Saturday’s Summer Sun & Stars Rally with heavy showers providing an extra challenge.
Variable weather conditions made the 12-stage event tough going, with a high attrition rate accounting for many fancied two-wheel-drive front-runners and reducing the overall finishers list to just 12 of the original 28 starters.
The Jamaican crew won by just under one minute, heading home Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew, making their four-wheel-drive competition debut in Skeete’s father Roger’s Subaru Impreza WRC S12. They had enjoyed an entertaining battle with Neil Armstrong and Barry Ward (Toyota Starlet), four-wheel-drive proving the decider when conditions worsened once again.
“Compared to Sol Rally Barbados, this win was easy, but easy is relative. Although I was not under a lot of pressure, we had issues –– two stalls and some close moments –– but we had a good time cushion to play with. It was good to see a youngster like Dane out in WRC for the first time and doing well; a few more events and he’d be up to speed,” Panton said.
Skeete enjoyed the experience, which included winning the first stage after the dinner break.
“It was awesome. The S12 is a lot more fun to drive than the 306, especially on the Vaucluse section. The battle for second with Neil was a good adrenaline rush in the last stages, even though I had the advantage of four-wheel-drive. Most important, save for a little bumper damage, I got it back in one piece,” Skeete said.
Armstrong added: “It wasn’t too difficult after Roger and Rhett dropped out. The battle with Dane was good fun, but it was inevitable in those conditions that he would have taken back the time.”
The two-wheel-drive battle had its first casualty on stage 1, the first uphill run from Hangmans Hill to Canefield, when Cliff Roett (Toyota Starlet) got out of shape at the Lion Castle jump. He was lucky to miss a power pole by inches but ended up deep into the scenery; both crew members were unharmed.
With Roger Mayers (throttle and alternator issues) and Rhett Watson (broken suspension) also early casualties, Armstrong had it his own way in two-wheel-drive . . . Mayers (WR Starlet) and Watson (BMW M3) did return, the latter winning SuperModified 12, while Mayers retired (again) when his brand new replacement alternator failed, with one Dark Hole stage win his small consolation.
Roger Hill and Graham Gittens finished fourth in the Toyota Corolla WRC, with the winners of Modified 6, M7 and Historic –– Neil Corbin (Starlet), Kurt Thompson (Honda Civic) and Wayne Archer (BMW 325) –– further up the order than they might have anticipated, finishing fifth to seventh.
The top 10 was completed by David St Hill (M3), who finished second to Watson in SM12 under the two-thirds rule, and Historic runners Jonathan Ince (Daihatsu Charmant) and John Corbin (Toyota Corolla). The two remaining overall finishers were Rommell Martin (Starlet) and Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS), who finished second and third in the Clubman class behind Jeremy Croney (Peugeot 206), who had missed the day’s opening stage.
Two stages of the combined Barbados Rally Club (BRC) and Motoring Club (MCBI) event were cancelled, the first afternoon run through Dark Hole because of an equipment failure, then the final southbound run through Sailor Gully, to catch up time, as the event was running late.
The Barbados Historic Rally, organised by the Vaucluse Raceway Motor Sport Club (VR-MSC), which ran ahead of the main field, was won by Greg Cozier and Natasha Farnum (Ford Escort RS) by a margin of more than two minutes from Jimmy McRae and Ian Grindrod (Porsche 911).