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Following their third consecutive victory in Flow King of the Hill last weekend, Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennell Jnr are top seeds for the 29th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event. They head a list of 91 cars from 13 nations in the final running order for this weekend’s Sol Rally Barbados 2018, published by the BRC at last evening’s (Wednesday) Briefing Meeting at Mahogany Ridge, St Thomas.

Their Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06 will carry number one when they leave tomorrow’s (Friday) Ceremonial Start at the Vaucluse Raceway (VRW) and head straight into action, running side-by-side with former UK National Rally Champion Paul Bird, returning after a two-year absence, with new co-driver Jack Morton in the Frank Bird Poultry/Be Wiser Insurance/Hager/Fuchs Titan Race/Loco Energy Drink Focus WRC08. They will not be the first interviewees on the start ramp, however, as cars will run in reverse order of seeding, tackling two laps of the RallySprint track for a total distance of 5.8 kilometres, starting at 6.00pm.

Rob Swann and Darren Garrod (Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/Cygnet Plant Subaru Impreza WRC S12B), who were seeded second last year, are at number three, with 13-time winner Roger Skeete and Louis Venezia (Sol/Automotive Art/Simpson Motors/Flow Impreza S12B) the leading local crew. Britain’s Kevin Procter and Andrew Roughead (Procters Coaches Ford Fiesta) are seeded at five, ahead of Roger Hill and Graham Gittens, in the Esso/Nassco/MaxMeyer/MotorMac/Pennzoil/Energizer/Refresh your Car/California Scents Toyota Corolla WRC, the second local crew.

Back after a 15-year absence, Britain’s Tom Preston and co-driver Carl Williamson (Hippo Motor Group Skoda Fabia R5) battled for Group A honours throughout KotH with Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho and James Harris (Subway/Zanzibar/Kaizan Sushi Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX). They finished the day seventh and eighth, placing six overseas crews in the top 10, one short of the 2015 record of seven.

After a big push on the final run last Sunday, Barry Mayers and Ben Norris start at nine in the Chefette/Rubis/Digicel/Hankook/DHL/Illusion Graphics Ford Fiesta, top 2wd seeds for the first time, while Dane Skeete’s best 2wd finish in KotH places him and Tyler Mayhew at 10 in the Sol/Automotive Art Peugeot 306 Maxi.

In addition to the battle for overall and 2wd supremacy, there are 14 separate classes to be contested, in all but two of which island competitors will enjoy the challenge of pitting their skills against regional or international entries, or both. With a total special stage distance of 128.20 kilometres and the reintroduction of night stages at the end of Saturday, there is much for competitors and spectators to look forward to.

After tomorrow’s single stage at VRW, there will be 13 stages at four venues on Saturday and a further 10 stages at four venues on Sunday, culminating in the Final Stage and Official Finish at Bushy Park Barbados at around 4.00pm. Once completed, competitors will head for the facility’s main spectator area on ‘The Hill’ where fans and service crew will already have gathered for a well-deserved after-party.

Sol Rally Barbados 2018 statistics:
• 91 crews on the final running order
• 41 overseas entries
• competitors from 13 countries (including host nation Barbados)
• 72 overseas drivers and co-drivers, 14 new to the event
• a record 21 female competitors, two drivers, 19 co-drivers
• cars from 17 manufacturers, Ford best-represented with 20, followed by BMW (18), Toyota (12) and Mitsubishi (10), with the rest in single figures
• 22 cars competing in Sol RB for the first time, half of that number either built or purchased specifically by their owners to compete in Sol RB18

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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