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The Turks & Caicos Motoring Club will field its biggest team yet in Sol Rally Barbados 2019, the 30th running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event. The pioneer member of the group, Paul Horton, first competed in 2010, followed by Stan Hartling two years later, then Pierre Beswick in 2017; after Hartling’s younger son Ben took part last year, his brother Sam is entered for Sol RB19, bringing the total to five cars, competing across four different classes.

Sol RB19 will run from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, with The Rally Show on the previous Saturday (May 25) followed by Flow King of the Hill at its new Stewarts Hill location on the Sunday; in three decades, it has evolved from small beginnings as the All-Stage Rally of 1990 into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International and a key National Event on the island’s sports-tourism calendar.

The Turks & Caicos – an archipelago of more than 100 islands, just nine of which are inhabited – are roughly 1,000 miles to the north-west of Barbados, directly north of the Dominican Republic. Although there are currently no motor sport facilities, the Motoring Club has been working towards creating opportunities for islanders to enjoy grass roots motor sport.

As Horton makes his 10th consecutive appearance, he returns to the island for his third full season in the Java Island/Sky Motorsports/H Racing/Arbikie Highland Estate Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX, in which he has finished second at year end in the BRC Modified 2 Class Championship for the past two years; he also won the class in Sol RB17 on the car’s debut in the event, finishing 18th overall. He looked set for a repeat last year, 20th and leading M2 into the final stage of Saturday, but engine failure ended his weekend.

Twice a class-winner in Targa Newfoundland in North America – in a Honda Civic in 2008, then a Ford Escort MkI the following year – it took Horton rather longer to find success in Barbados, three retirements (Civic 2, Escort 1) before finishing 27th overall and second in M7 in the Escort in 2013. Horton has already seen action in Barbados this year, reunited with his former co-driver Kris Yearwood, with two top six finishes in the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc (MCBI) Spring Blaze double-header sprint last month.

Canadian-born Hartling, whose island debut in 2012 came at the wheel of a Lotus Exige, endured a similarly challenging time before he claimed his first overall finish in 2017, 30th and fifth in SuperModified 3 in his Bambarra Rum/Automotive Art BMW M3. Although clutch failure early in Sol RB18 resulted in another non-finish, he went on to place fourth in the Sunday Cup, then narrowly lose out on third place in SM3 at year-end – Andrew Jones won the tie-break, based on best overall finish – despite claiming the class win in the season-ending Winter Rally in October. Hartling also has a new co-driver, in Jeremy Croney, who comes from a Barbados family steeped in motor sport.

Like Horton, Hartling’s previous record had included in the Targa Newfoundland, when his co-driver was Jamaican-born Beswick – they twice finished in the top 10 together – who became the third member of the Turks & Caicos driving force two years ago in the Grace Bay Car Rentals/Hartling Luxury Resorts/Sky Motorsports/Caicos Dream Tours Citroen C2 R2 MAX. Co-driven by Bajan girl Leslie Evanson, a former class-winning co-driver on the event, he finished ninth in the Sol RB17 Sunday Cup after issues on Saturday, but missed last year’s event after an early-season accident, returning to action towards the end of last season. He is easing himself back in to the Modified 1 competition, again with Leslie co-driving.

Ben Hartling has an identical Citroen, backed by The Hartling Group, with Barbadian Dwayne Forde as his co-driver, a member of the Turks & Caicos ‘family’ in recent years as co-driver to Horton; his experience will be valuable for the 23-year-old, who finished third in M1 at year-end, with only four events contested. His 25-year-old brother Sam is entered in a BMW 318ti Compact in Clubman 2, with no co-driver as yet confirmed. Both have competed in North America with father Stan in the Chump Car Series; while the usual regulations dealing with important issues such as safety follow main-line motor sport, the approach to cars and competition is rather more different, as Stan has explained in the past: “We built a real special, a police pursuit car cut down, caged and then we put on a Ford F150 truck body . . . backwards! It drives the guys on the track nuts!” They have raced at some iconic venues, including Road Atlanta, Daytona and Laguna Seca.

Three weeks until on-line entries close

With just over three weeks to go before entries close for Sol Rally Barbados 2019 on Friday, April 26, more than 70 have been received on-line at the recently re-vamped official web site, rallybarbados.net. Approaching 50 of those already appear in the on-line list, which is updated regularly as local entries are received, also when overseas crews have confirmed their plans and their participation has been announced. There are 10 so far listed in the four-wheel-drive classes, with around double that number still to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Once again, there is a healthy balance between local crews, which currently number a little under half of the entries received, and overseas visitors. There are more than 20 new overseas participants on the list, many putting the final touches to their plans before their cars are due to ship across the Atlantic from Dover in early May aboard the Geest Line freighter Baltic Klipper.

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB19 marks the 12th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fourth by communications provider Flow.

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