Skip navigation

Former UK National Rally Champion Roger Duckworth, a podium finisher on his last two visits to Sol Rally Barbados, has confirmed he will return for the ninth time for Sol RB20 (May 29-31), although he will miss the previous Sunday’s Flow King of the Hill. He and co-driver Mark Broomfield kicked off their 30th season as a rallying partnership at Cadwell Park in the east of England last Sunday (February 2), when they finished 10th in the TJS Self Drive Alan Healy Memorial Stages.

Despite a foggy and damp start to the day, the picturesque Lincolnshire race circuit had a distinctly Caribbean feel, Duckworth not the only Barbados regular in action: five-time winner Jeff Panton and Rob Swann enjoyed a Ford Fiesta R5 battle at the sharp end, John Carroll (Honda Civic) was 47th of the 58 finishers, while Emma Morrison (MG ZR) retired just after half-distance with a bent rear beam. They were all cheered on by family and friends, along with the Clough and Mauger families, Chris Shooter and Bev Le Good.

Duckworth and Broomfield first rallied together in the 1991 Mazda Winter Rally, precursor of the Bournemouth-based Rallye Sunseeker, where victory in 2011 won Duckworth his first trip to Sol Rally Barbados. After a class win on that debut together in a Daihatsu Charade, a close friendship and formidable rallying partnership evolved: since then, in more than 130 rallies together, they have claimed some memorable victories – four times in Bournemouth between 1998 and 2013 and Wales Rally GB National 2011 among the highlights – with more than 30 other podium finishes. Having finished fourth in 1997, they were ANCRO National Rally Champions in 1998, then second in 1999.

After the Daihatsu was replaced by a Ford Sierra XR4x4 in 1992, Duckworth first rallied a Subaru in late 1996, since when he has been loyal to the marque; a Group A Impreza 555 carried him and Broomfield to 11th in the 1997 Network Q RAC Rally, Britain’s round of the World Championship, before he switched to an Impreza WRC S4, then his current WRC S6 (acquired in 2005), by his own admission now “a member of the family” and a car unlikely ever to leave home.

Since 2011, Duckworth has only missed Barbados once – Sol RB18, providing moral support for his daughter during important exams – and has only one retirement to his name, after gearbox problems in Sol RB15; Duckworth finished third with co-driver Alun Cook in Sol RB17, then second with Broomfield last year. Between his trips to the island, Duckworth does very little rallying, so back-to-back third places on the Wales Rally GB National event in 2016, ’17 and ’18 are testament to his ability to quickly put a lack of preparation behind him. After a dnf with mechanical issues at last year’s WRGB National, he used Cadwell Park, another event he has won in the past, as a shakedown for this year’s Caribbean trip.

Panton and Swann enjoy feisty Fiesta battle

Brit Rob Swann came out on top of the ‘Cadwell Park Caribbean R5 Challenge’ at last Sunday’s (February 2) TJS Self Drive Alan Healy Memorial Stages while Jamaica’s Jeff Panton endured a difficult day. With Steve McNulty on the notes in his rented Ford Fiesta R5, Swann ended the day seventh overall and collected the awards as second in class.

Overnight fog and a very damp start to the day made for tricky conditions on the opening stage. For Panton and regular co-driver Michael Fennell Jnr, who had already missed the chance for some seat time at a pre-weekend track day when their recently-acquired Fiesta R5 had some mechanical issues, things got worse on the day’s first stage. A hose blew off early on, leaving them to crawl around much of the 5.5 miles, waving other competitors past; they ended the stage 62nd of the 66 starters, losing approaching two minutes on the leaders.

Panton was not down-hearted, however, saying: “It was frustrating, but when the car was working, we were swapping times with Rob and Roger Duckworth.” Duckworth was fastest of the three Sol RB front-runners on four stages, Swann on three and Panton on two; in a direct comparison between the two Fiestas, however, Swann was faster than Panton on six of the nine, with Panton suffering car trouble on two of them. On the rest, there was only four-tenths of a second between their times, whichever was the faster, so a good day was enjoyed by both.

Meanwhile, in the north of England, another Barbados regular Kevin Procter won last Sunday’s Jack Frost Stages for the first time at Croft Circuit, a venue where he has been a frequent winner of the Christmas Stages. Driving his regular Ford Fiesta, Procter tackled the event with co-driver Patrick Walsh, with whom he had looked set to finally claim a Sol RB podium finish last year until his gearbox let go on Saturday’s final stage. Walsh has a strong record on the Jack Frost: he won it last year with Peter Smith in a Fiesta WRC, three years after claiming victory with Smith’s son Guy (Focus WRC), having previously also won in Steve Simpson’s Subaru Impreza in 2014.

Procter was set to be involved in another Caribbean head-to-head in this Sunday’s (February 9) Riponian Stages, but the event has been cancelled ahead of high winds and storms forecast for the weekend. Procter was seeded at number three, with co-driver Ian Windress – Walsh was entered alongside Charlie Payne (Fiesta WRC) – with Tom Preston and Carl Williamson seeded at five in his Fiesta WRC.

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.

%d bloggers like this: