Watson leading the challenge

Rhett Watson is the runaway leader of the Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge –– Suzuki Rocks –– after Sunday’s first two driver challenges at the Bushy Park, St Philip circuit. With a score of 63 points, Watson has a 21-point advantage over Roger Mayers and Josh Read, who ended the day tied in second place.

Sunday’s action, played out on the club house straight in front of an enthusiastic crowd during the Beacon Insurance Barbados Motoring Federation club meet, kicked off the competition element of Suzuki Rocks, the quest for the best in the island, to find two drivers to represent Team Barbados in the ROC Nations Cup, the team event staged on the Saturday of Race Of Champions weekend, December 13 and 14.

The driver challenges were low-speed autocross-style tests, each course marked out by orange cones and drivers at the wheel of identical 1.2-litre automatic Suzuki Swifts. After a briefing meeting, at which diagrams of each course were distributed, there was a driver walk-through, before four-time BRC Autocross Champion Omar Boodhoo drove the test to set a benchmark time.

 The first course was described as being “of moderate complexity”, the second a more flowing slalom-style test; in the first test, the drivers competed in alphabetical order, Neil Armstrong the first to go, setting a time of 55.26 seconds. He was followed by former Autocross Champion Jamal Brathwaite, who looked set to take the lead, but he was the first to suffer a two-second penalty for knocking over a cone.

Friends and supporters had driven over from the pits, lining the inside of the circuit, joining the spectators on the hill in cheering on their favoured driver. Kenrick Husbands was the first driver to have his time disallowed for wrong direction, while Roger Mayers earned a big cheer for his effort of 54.35s, moving him into the lead. It did not last long, however, Josh Read eclipsing his time by three-hundredths of a second.

Watson was the last but one to drive, clocking 53.43s, to win by nine-tenths and collect the maximum 35 points, with Read second on 28, Mayers third (23), Armstrong fourth (19) and Brathwaite fifth (17); eight drivers failed to score in the first test, so would have work to do in the slalom.

After the chance to enjoy a broad spectrum of bike, car, drag and kart racing, the 18 drivers returned to do battle. Once again a walk-through was followed by Omar Boodhoo setting a benchmark time, with Brathwaite the first driver to beat it, on 43.79s . . . and he seemed set for a good result, as the next nine drivers were either slower, or had their times disallowed. It was Dane Skeete, a non-scorer in the first test, however, who spoiled Brathwaite’s party, an impressive 43.37s moving him into the lead.

And there he would stay, Brathwaite slipping to third, when another determined performance from Watson placed him second to Skeete, five-hundredths faster than the former autocross champion. All but two of the drivers who had failed to score in the first test reversed their fortunes second time round, leaving Steve King and Trevor Manning the only drivers yet to open their account, along with Sammy Cumberbatch and Andrew Jones, who were out of the island.

Details of the final element of the selection process will be announced shortly. All drivers will go through to the second stage, in which they will again compete against the clock, but in a variety of vehicles, and with double points available for each test. The final selection of Team Barbados will be made and announced after this second Fans are still encouraged to vote for their favoured driver in the online poll –– go to www.facebook.com/ROCBarbados –– as the results of both online voting and ontrack performance will be taken into consideration in the final decision.

Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge:

1st Rhett Watson – 63 points

2nd equal Roger Mayers & Josh Read – 42pts

4th Jamal Brathwaite – 40pts

5th Dane Skeete – 35pts

6th Roger Skeete – 31pts

7th Neil Armstrong – 29pts

8th Daryl Clarke – 28pts

9th Geoffrey Ullyett – 25pts

10th Mark Thompson – 21pts

11th Karl Waterman – 17pts

12th Edward Corbin – 15pts

13th Philip Moe – 13pts

14th Stuart Williams – 12pts

15th Stuart Maloney – 9pts

16th Kenrick Husbands – 7pts

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