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Jeremy Gonsalves completed a remarkable hat-trick of Esports rally victories last weekend (May 29-31), beating an international field by 15 seconds in the inaugural RallyE-Barbados, hosted by the on-line rally group, Carib Rally Club (CRC), on Codemasters’ Dirt Rally 2.0 game. Gonsalves had already triumphed in the previous weekend’s King of thE Hill and one of CRC’s first events, Rally Trinidad 2020.

Although the provisional entry numbered more than 200, Friday night’s stages were tackled by a total of 162 starters, motor sport regulars and Sim-only competitors relishing the chance for competition while the coronavirus pandemic has closed down real-world rallying. Just short of 100 local entries faced 70 from the wider Caribbean and countries as far afield as New Zealand, Sierra Leone and the United States, with the majority from the island’s regular source markets for rallying tourism, the UK.

The event mirrored the real-world Sol Rally Barbados as far as possible, with 25 special stages, three on Friday night, 12 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday; CRC used Dirt Rally 2.0’s German stages on Friday and Saturday, then switched to Spain for the final day, where the fast-flowing stages are reminiscent of those in the traditional Barbados Sunday in the south-east corner of the island. A Briefing Meeting via Microsoft Teams was held pre-event and the action was monitored by a panel of experienced Stewards.

With a 20-hour window each day to allow competitors worldwide to tackle the stages – the UK is currently five hours ahead, for instance – it was maximum attack from the start, particularly for the front-runners, with M-Sport World Rally Championship co-driver Elliot Edmondson (he sits with Gus Greensmith) the early leader on Friday. His dominance was challenged by fellow-Brit Liam Carfrae, however, whose impressive times using a Controller to finish third overall at the previous weekend’s King of thE Hill had made everyone sit up. Gonsalves flirted with disaster, however, too slow on the first stage, then pushing too hard on the third resulting in rolling off the stage; he was lucky to get back on the road and end the day sixth, with Carfrae the overnight leader from Dominic Ollivierre of St Vincent and the Grenadines second, Edmondson third, with just seven seconds spread over the trio.

Saturday promised lively action, with 12 stages covering nearly 80 kilometres, a transition from day into night . . . and rain in the afternoon, although competitor numbers had dropped by around 30 (another reflection of the real-world Sol RB) after the challenging Friday stages and some power outages in Barbados. Carfrae put in some some aggressive wet stage times to stay ahead of the field, while Gonsalves won eight of the 12 to move in to second place, nudging Ollivierre down to third.

The move to the fast-flowing stages on Sunday brought a significant surface change, along with rain on the first two tests of the opening loop, presenting drivers with a tricky tyre choice. While this looked set to be the great leveller, it was in fact rally leader Carfrae who shook things up: after an uncharacteristic brush with the scenery, he lost one minute changing a puncture . . . and, in the near-instant world of social media, the rest of the Top 10 knew within minutes! Of those who changed up a gear, UK driver Richard Bliss came into contention for a podium finish, although it was Ollivierre whose times kept him at the head of the field. Gonsalves was still chipping away, however, fastest on stage after stage, finally cementing his victory by winning the Katspraddle Power Stage by more than two seconds, and the event by 15secs.

Ollivierre, who repeated his second-place finish of King of thE Hill, was among the first to congratulate the winner with a Facebook post: “Top job, Jeremy Gonsalves! Top drive and well done on the hat-trick! Stellar performance on day three. You earned it buddy! Well done.” Bliss finished third overall, another 44secs adrift, while erstwhile leader Carfrae won the Controller class for the second weekend in a row, fifth overall.

Carib Rally Club Chairman Robert Simmons said: “The event proved to be a lot more successful than the committee and I could have imagined. I would like to thank the Barbados Rally Club for not only recognising and embracing Esports, but also for providing some of the prizes for this event, and the Barbados Motoring Federation, which has expressed an interest in supporting Esports in the future. Also Blades Trophies, Cargo BGI and power stage sponsor Katspraddle, who agreed to back our new venture.”

RallyE-Barbados
Friday-Sunday, May 29-31
Official results

Key to nationalities (competitor from Barbados unless shown): ENG – England; JAM – Jamaica; SCO – Scotland; SVG – St Vincent & The Grenadines; T&T – Trinidad & Tobago; WAL – Wales

1st Jeremy Gonsalves (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), 1h 41m 49.571s
2nd Dominic Ollivierre – SVG (Ford Fiesta R5), +15.685
3rd Richard Bliss – ENG (Ford Fiesta R5), +54.481
4th Chris Corbin (Skoda Fabia R5), +1:22.889
5th Liam Carfrae – ENG (Skoda Fabia R5), +1:39.684
6th Steamy McGann – JAM (Mitsubishi Space Star R5), +2:44.120
7th Richard Suter – WAL (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), +2:54.221
8th Adam Mallalieu (Ford Fiesta R5), +3:45.728
9th Adam Pinheiro – T&T (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), +4:10.046
10th Gareth Parry – WAL (Ford Fiesta R5), +4:15.745
Etc

Starters: 162 (92 Barbados, 56 International, 14 Regional)
Finishers: 97 (54 Barbados, 34 International, 9 Regional)

Wheel: 1st Gonsalves; 2nd Ollivierre; 3rd Bliss; 4th C Corbin; 5th McGann; etc
Controller: 1st Carfrae, 1h 43m 29.255s; 2nd Terris Scott (Ford Fiesta R5), +2:37.282; 3rd Angelo Doyle (Skoda Fabia R5), +5:05.517; 4th Jamie Vaughan – WAL (Peugeot 208 T16 R5), +6:06.737; 5th Callum Shanks – SCO (Ford Fiesta R5), +6:07.227; etc
Katspraddle Power Stage: 1st Gonsalves, 6:41.983; 2nd Ollivierre, 6:44.247; 3rd Carfrae, 6:45.608; 4th Suter, 6:46.774; 5th Bliss, 6:47.320; etc
Sunday Cup: 1st Rich Jordan – ENG (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), 46:34.506s; 2nd Matt Staffner (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), +02.095; 3rd Renaldo Carrington (Skoda Fabia R5), +21.504; 4th William Brownlie – SCO (Ford Fiesta R5), +1:51.611; 5th Fernando Blackman (Mitsubishi Space Star R5), +2:02.873; 6th Rivaldo Rochester (Ford Fiesta R5), +2:15.076; 7th Paul Black – NZL (Ford Fiesta R5), +2:26.795; 8th Rashon Marshall (Ford Fiesta R5), +2:45.536; 9th Kevin Weekes (Mitsubishi Space Star R5), +3:08.309; 10th Chad Hartley (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), +4:09.241; etc

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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