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Two diehard Welsh rally volunteers will head across the Atlantic for next year’s Sol Rally Barbados after winning the Marshals’ Prize Draw at Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion, the first closed-road rally run in the Principality. Laura Sugden, who was confirmed as the lucky winner at the recent Awards Evening, will make the trip with her partner Nathan Davies, who was also marshalling at the September event.

Both in their mid-20s, Laura and Nathan were among 666 volunteers that supported the ground-breaking event, just one of many weekends each year spent rallying, either as competitors or volunteers. The sport is in their blood, Laura with a father and uncles who rally, Nathan a successful co-driver, and both of them on the roster of volunteers at Wales Rally GB, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship. Laura says: “If we’re not competing, we’re helping out by marshalling or doing something. I’ve never been to the Caribbean before, so it’s going to be an amazing experience and I just can’t wait!”

The 31st running of the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event is slated for Friday to Sunday, May 29 to 31, with The Rally Show (May 23) and Flow King of the Hill (May 24) the previous weekend. In a reciprocal arrangement, part of a volunteer incentive programme sponsored in Barbados by Chefette Restaurants, three members of the island’s body of marshals will travel to Rali Bae Ceredigion next year.

When Laura, from Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire, heard from the rally’s commercial manager Charlie Jukes, she was initially apprehensive: “I thought I might have done something wrong at the rally. But when I spoke to him he sounded happy, so it couldn’t be that. We chatted for a while, but I still didn’t know what he wanted. Then he told me I’d won the prize to go to Barbados. I just couldn’t believe it! I mean, things like this just don’t happen every day. I was at work at the time and I was so stunned the people around me wondered what was going on. I shall always remember that day; where I was, what I was doing.”

And Laura’s enthusiasm for motoring also led her into a rather unlikely career, driving a 32-ton tipper truck for Tarmac: “I found myself out of work and being into cars and motor sport, I thought I’d like to have a job driving. One day, I decided to do my HGV Class 2 training and I’ve been driving for about six years now; two months ago, I passed my Class 1, I love the job.” Laura, whose nickname is ‘Sugz’ or ‘Sugzy’, a short version of her surname, carries the number plate ‘Miss SUGZ’ in her cab: “When I put the number plate in a truck people would assume a male driver, so I put the ‘Miss’ on it.”

Jukes said: “Laura and Nathan put a lot in to the sport and they are worthy winners; it would be safe to say that she was excited to hear the news! We extend our best wishes to them both for a fantastic trip and thank all of our marshals for enabling us to run a safe and successful event.”

Rally Club PRO Neil Barnard said: “We certainly look forward to welcoming Laura and Nathan to our island and our event and I’m sure that they will have an unforgettable experience. Our Marshals carry out similar functions to those in the UK, it’s just that the environment and the weather are somewhat different!”

Geest Line among those recognised for “significant contribution”

Geest Line, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) official trans-Atlantic shipping partner for Sol Rally Barbados, was among individuals and organisations acknowledged for their long-term support when the Club marked the 30th running of its premier event earlier this year. The UK-based company has fostered trade links between the UK and the Caribbean for more than 65 years and today carries more cargo between Europe and the Windward and Leeward islands than any other shipping line.

The presentation was made on the Geest Line freighter Baltic Klipper on its first voyage to the Bridgetown Port after Sol RB19. Rally Club Treasurer Jeanne Crawford, who had accepted the award on behalf of the shipping line during the post-event Prizegiving handed it on to ship’s captain Sergiy Moroz in the presence of local agent Raphael Carrington from Caribbean International Freight and Logistics Ltd and Sol RB Chairman Mark Hamilton.

The engraving on the plaque read: “Presented to Geest Line Ltd and their Team Members in recognition of their significant contribution to the development and growth of the Club’s All Stage Rally, through the efficient handling of shipments, understanding of our unique requests and being a partner in the resolution of challenges faced over the past 30 years.”

During the June Prizegiving, two British couples were also rewarded by the Club with plaques marking their contribution, including their annual effort in helping at Geest’s UK port of departure, formerly Portsmouth and now Dover. Andrew and Melissa Costin-Hurley, who first visited in 2003, were praised for “their dedicated assistance in the loading of competitor cars transiting to Barbados for the event”, while Martin and Glenis Stockdale’s citation read: “In recognition of their significant contribution to the development and growth of the Club’s All Stage Rally, through their infectious support and persistent participation during the past 19 consecutive years.”

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB20 marks the 13th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fifth by communications provider Flow.

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