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With the United Kingdom facing another cold snap – sub-zero temperatures are forecast again in the coming days – rally crews across the country are turning their thoughts to warmer climes, and to Sol Rally Barbados 2018. As next week’s deadline approaches for cars to be delivered to the south coast port of Dover, new home of Geest Line’s shipping operations, the overseas entry has reached 35, with further announcements to come.

Sol RB18 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, with The Rally Show and Flow King of the Hill (KotH) the previous weekend, May 26/27. Today’s confirmations of four more competitors in the Clubman, Modified and SuperModified categories, raises the total in the on-line entry list on the official web site,, to 85 cars.

And there are two more newcomers, Liverpool Civil Engineering Consultant John Carroll and Yorkshire farmer Graham Haigh. Having read of the event in the UK’s weekly Motorsport News, Carroll learned more from Tsalta Motorsport, the Welsh rally car rental and preparation business of Gary and Linda Thomas, long-term supporters of the event. Carroll first rallied in the 1980s, driving an Opel Manta, powered by a 200bhp Vauxhall Astra engine in its final guise – third on the 1989 Cestrian Stages his best result – before putting rallying on hold to concentrate on family and business in 1992.

He returned two years ago, in the Motorsport News MSVR Circuit Rally Championship, with a Tsalta-prepared Ford Escort MkII; he continued in to 2017/18 in the same car, before acquiring the JJCAL Construction Consultants Honda Civic Type-R he will run in Barbados in Modified 2. Weather caused many cancellations in the UK earlier this year, limiting Carroll to one outing at Anglesey, where Linda Thomas navigated; as she will be otherwise engaged in Barbados, local co-driver Kareem Gaskin has the seat.

Haigh, who farms at Wormersley, near Doncaster, is another first-timer, attracted to Sol RB by word-of-mouth, as co-driver Kari Bates explains: “Several friends, including Kevin Procter, have competed on the event, and everyone who’s ever done it says it’s ‘mint’. I’m from the same hometown as Jon and Alison Trenholme, who competed for the first time last year and relayed the same feedback. So, here we come!”

The Haigh & Sons/Tanfield Engineering Service/Army Sales MkII Escort has undergone a thorough strip-down and refresh in preparation for the event, although driver and co-driver have not competed together since last year. Born into a rallying family, Bates has been a competitor since her teenage years, on both sides on the car: “I never really had any desire to sit in the silly seat, but started navigating for Graham about eight years ago, although I still regularly drive my own Peugeot 106.”

Two more MkII Escorts are heading for Dover, for Gary and Linda Thomas, back for their sixth visit, and another returnee Dick Mauger, joined by Stan Graham, who has previously made the trip with Steve Finch. As their rental business is currently so busy, the Thomases were faced with depriving a customer of his regular equipment or looking for an extra car. While a suitable Escort was found, it entailed a mammoth journey to Aboyne in Scotland, says Linda: “We had a full Friday in Wales, testing with a customer at Sweet Lamb in the morning, scrutineering in the afternoon for Rallynuts Stages, rally on Saturday; after the trip to Scotland all day Sunday, we drove to engine mapping on Monday and got home early hours Tuesday, very tired. But Gary now has a car that suits our needs for Barbados, although it seems to have spent most of its working life on gravel, so we have work to do before Dover.” In their five earlier visits, the Welsh couple have three overall finishes to their credit, with a Clubman-Historic class win in 2012.

Although he has recently acquired a Ford Fiesta S2000 to replace the Subaru Impreza he drove last year, Mauger is reverting to 2wd this year, while the Fiesta is sorted. The British veteran has recorded four consecutive overall finishes since 2014, when he won Modified 6 in a Nissan Micra, followed by two runs in a MkII Escort and the Impreza.

Podium finish for Procter as UK rallying makes history

Barbados regular Kevin Procter enjoyed a successful final shakedown of his Ford Fiesta for this year’s trip to the Caribbean, finishing third in the Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton last Sunday (April 22), the first closed-road rally on the UK mainland. Multiple title-winner Melvyn Evans led from start to finish, co-driven in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B by Sean Hayde – he’s been to Sol Rally Barbados as a prize-winning marshal and co-driver – with Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg second in a Fiesta WRC.

With Service and Scrutineering on the sea front and five stages (the longest 3.8 miles) along twisting country lanes, the event drew many comparisons with Barbados. In his report in Motorsport News, Jack Benyon, who visited Sol RB17, wrote: “Rallycross ace Kevin Procter was right at home on this event, given his many appearances on Rally Barbados, which is similar in short stages, and plenty of them. Even the Clacton weather had something to rival the Caribbean.”

After finishing sixth in Clacton with Carl Williamson, who will co-drive in Barbados, Tom Preston will shake down his Skoda Fabia R5 one more time, in tomorrow’s (Saturday) Pirelli International Rally, the second round of the Prestone British Rally Championship, with co-driver Max Freeman. The only all-female crew entered in Sol RB18 claimed the same accolade in Clacton, Shelly Taunt and Julie Murphy in their Group N Impreza finishing 38th of the 69 finishers in their first rally since Sol RB16.

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Annivxqxwersary in 2017; Sol RB18 marks the 11th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the third by communications provider Flow.

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