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Ninety crews – one shy of the record entry in 2012 – will contest Sunday’s (May 27) Flow King of the Hill, the final shakedown ahead of Sol Rally Barbados 2018 (June 1-3). Last year’s winner, Jamaica’s Jeff Panton, Britain’s Paul Bird and island legend Roger Skeete, who have won seven of the 10 previous editions of KotH between them, will go head-to-head in a battle for supremacy that truly captures the spirit of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event – a showdown between local, regional and international drivers.

The provisional running order published today (May 25) lists the 90 starters in 14 classifications, with Group B split to accommodate the rare presence of eligible four-wheel-drive cars. As before, the results of Flow KotH will be used to seed Sol RB18 – drivers who either don’t compete or fail to set a time will be seeded behind the last car in their class, unless safety considerations dictate otherwise – but the event takes on even greater significance for local drivers this year, as the opening round of the 2018 Flow Super-Sprint Series, a new stand-alone BRC Championship.

BRC and Sol RB18 Chairman Mark Hamilton said: “As Sol Rally Barbados has developed, so has Flow King of the Hill; Sunday’s 90-car entry is sure to provide competitors and fans alike with an spectacular day’s sport, particularly as the format of four official runs and no practice means drivers have to be on it from the get-go. I am delighted that Flow has expanded its commitment to the Barbados Rally Club as title sponsor of the new SuperSprint Series, which adds another layer to our growing partnership.”

Having shared the Flow KotH crown with former double European Rally Champion Simon Jean-Joseph (Ford Focus WRC08) in 2016, Panton (Focus WRC06) went on to claim the second in his hat-trick of Sol RB victories, joining Skeete (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B, 2011) and Bird (Focus WRC08, 2012) in doing the KotH/Sol RB double in the same year. With Britain’s Rob Swann (Impreza S12B) and Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta) also in the mix – their best finishes are, respectively, second and fourth in 2017 – the result of Sunday’s event is not a foregone conclusion, but the outcome will fuel some lively discussions among fans in the coming days.

Only two Sol RB18 entries are missing, the lowest number in recent years: Scotland’s Andy Scott (Ford Fiesta R5) is racing in the opening round of the new Americas Rallycross Championship at Silverstone in the UK, where his Albatec Racing team is fielding a pair of Peugeot 208 RX Supercars, the other for Mark Higgins in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Ninth overall and SuperModified 3 winner in Sol RB17, Justin Campbell’s Republic Bank BMW M3 suffered a mechanical failure during testing, as he explains: “We managed to get the parts flown in last night [Wednesday] at 10.00pm, but we don’t have enough time to reassemble and test so we opted to sit this event out. It’s going to be my first time watching KotH since 2010, but I’ll be there to support my fellow competitors and friends.”

As it has since 2015, Flow KotH will run from Hangman’s Hill through the Vaucluse Raceway (VRW) then north to Lion Castle, all within the parish of St Thomas, for a total stage length of 4.30 kilometres. Cars will run in reverse order of seeding, from Clubman 1 up to WRC-1, and the top 10 at the lunch break will be held back and re-seeded in reverse order to run at the end of the field for the final two runs. The first run is slated for 10.00am, with two each before and after the lunch break, the fastest of which will decide competitors’ finishing positions.

From the first KotH at Turner’s Hall in 2008, local drivers Paul Bourne (‘08 & ’10) and Skeete (’09 & ’11) shared the laurels, as it moved first to Stewart’s Hill, then Sailor Gully and Hangman’s Hill. England’s Paul Bird won back at Hangman’s Hill in 2012, and again in 2014, Neil Armstrong winning in 2013, at Luke Hill. Victory at Hangman’s Hill in 2015, the first year the test ran through VRW, was Skeete’s third – that total so far unbeaten – while Panton and Simon Jean-Joseph tied for victory in 2016 after a rain-affected final run. Panton joined Bird and Bourne as a two-time winner last year.

Highest-placed two-wheel-drive car for the first three years was the legendary Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift, with Sean Gill sixth in his last season in the car (2008), then Ian Warren ninth and fifth, which remains the highest overall KotH finish for 2wd. Armstrong was top 2wd in 2011 & ’12, ninth and eighth, the mantle then assumed by Roger Mayers, sixth and eighth respectively in 2013 & ’14. Josh Read then joined the roll of honour, seventh and sixth in 2015 & ’16, while Rhett Watson finally topped the 2wd entry last year, seventh overall.

Sol Rally Barbados (June 1-3) and Flow King of the Hill (May 27) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Title sponsors: The Sol Group and Flow. Major partners: Automotive Art, Banks, Chefette, Simpson Motors, Toyo Tires. Partners: Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Geest Line, Tourism Development Corporation. Associate sponsor: Stoute’s Car Rental

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