Action-packed rally

Last-minute preparations for King of the Hill

Local, international and regional competitors are making last-minute preparations for this Sunday’s Scotiabank King Of The Hill, the final shakedown ahead of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol Rally Barbados 2014  on May 30 and June 1.

Tomorrow’s Simpson Motors scrutineering will give fans their first chance to see more than ten cars new to the island. Competition cars will start arriving to a pre-arranged schedule from 12:30 p.m., so the scrutineers can carry out their work in a secure area – cars will be called up in groups of five in the order of their arrival. All cars are mandated to remain on site between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. during which time driver interviews and other promotional activities will take place.

Fans will find much to interest them, particularly among the 28-strong international entry, more than a third of which are newcomers to the event. Among these, Scotland’s Brian Watson and his Audi Quattro S1 will be sure to attract attention, along with Stuart Deeley’s Toyota Celica GT4, built specifically for Sol Rally Barbados 2014, the Englishman’s third different car for his third trip to the island.

With 10 ex-works world cars entered, fans will be able to trace the history of the Subaru Impreza WRC from former United Kingdom champion Roger Duckworth’s S6 to 12-time winner of the island’s premier event Roger Skeete’s S12, compare the subtle changes in the Focus WRCs from Jamaican Jeff Panton’s WRC06 through Paul Bourne’s WRC07 to the WRC08s of Paul Bird and Trinidad’s John Powell. All, however, will need to consider the potential of Neil Armstrong’s Suzuki SX4 WRC, winner of King Of The Hill last year.

The provisional start list published today for Sunday’s prelude to the 25th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event reveals 80 starters, headed by former United Kingdom national rally champion Bird, who is aiming for a hat-trick of Sol Rally Barbados wins this year.

His Ford Focus WRC08 landed at Grantley Adams International Airport on a Virgin Atlantic flight yesterday afternoon, after a race against time to rebuild it following a major accident on the Isle of Man less than two weeks ago.

Scotiabank King Of The Hill returns to the Hangman’s Hill to Lion Castle venue in St Thomas, which was “rested” last year; titled Canefield, a much longer, downhill, version of the stage will feature the following weekend. With the largest field of ex-works world rally cars ever assembled in the region, Sunday’s competition promises to be fierce.

From the inaugural King Of The Hill at Turner’s Hall in 2008, local drivers Bourne (2008 & 2010) and Skeete (2009 & 2011) shared the first four victories, as it moved first to Stewart’s Hill, then Sailor Gully and Hangman’s Hill. Bird won on the second visit to Hangman’s Hill in 2012, then Armstrong added his name to the roll of honour last year, when the venue was Luke Hill in St Lucy.

Highest-placed two-wheel-drive car for the first three years was the Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift, with Sean Gill sixth in his last season in the car (2008), then Ian Warren ninth and fifth, the highest overall King Of The Hill finish for two-wheel drives. Armstrong was top two-wheel drive in 2011 and 2012, ninth and eighth, the mantle assumed last year by Roger Mayers, placed sixth.

The practice run is slated for 10:15 a.m., followed by three official runs, the fastest of which will decide competitors’ finishing positions. Cars will run in reverse seeding order, from Clubman up to WRC-1, and the top 10 after the first official run will be held back and re-seeded in reverse order to run at the end of the field.

The results of Scotiabank King Of The Hill are used to seed the following weekend’s Sol Rally Barbados and cars which do not compete will be seeded behind the last car in their class, unless safety considerations dictate otherwise. Notable absentees on Sunday include Kevin Procter, who is competing in Britain’s round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and locals Stuart Maloney and Cliff Roett, both with engine issues.

Source: (RB)

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