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Britain’s Rob Swann, the leading European contender of recent years, arrives in the island next Monday determined to win Sol Rally Barbados 2020. He posted his on-line entry two days before the closing date after constant juggling with Covid testing, travel and quarantine arrangements for himself and his Welsh co-driver and friend Darren Garrod, who faced even more complicated protocols to get from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where he was competing last weekend.

Swann said: “I have Darren back with me for this event, fresh from co-driving for Ruari Bell in JWRC, so he has had to go through a lot of testing and travelling to make the journey from the Med to the Caribbean. Like me, though, he really wants to win this event and that is why we have gone to such a lot of effort to make the rally this year.”

Following its postponement as a result of the pandemic, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event will now run over the weekend of October 31/November 1, with the Prizegiving on Sunday evening at the Vaucluse Raceway, where the last of 19 stages will end. The previous Saturday, Bushy Park will host Scrutineering, while Flow King of the Hill on the Sunday will return to Stewarts Hill.

The provisional entry list for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event published today (October 14) lists 45 entries, headed by last year’s winners Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B); five-time winner Jeff Panton and co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr will campaign the Jamaican’s Ford Fiesta WRC together for the first time, while Garrod will also make his debut in Swann’s similar car.

With seven entries each, the best-supported classes are FIA R5 and SuperModified 2. While the event’s biggest R5 entry to date includes American motor sport legend Ken Block in a brand new Fiesta Rally2 and double British Rally Champion Matt Edwards from Wales, co-driving for Turks and Caicos Rally Team member Paul Horton, the local SM2 hotshoes such as Barry Mayers (Fiesta) and Rhett Watson (BMW M3) are set on mixing it with the four-wheel-drives.

Chairman of Sol RB20 Mark Hamilton said: “It says a lot about the event and Barbados that we have been able to go ahead and plan for this postponed edition of Sol Rally Barbados, which has only been possible through the very hard work of the organizing team, our incredible partners and of course the commitment of our local and overseas entrants in these very difficult times. We will be following some very stringent safety protocols which has meant some changes in how we normally do things which we will be talking more about in the coming days.”

In their nine Sol Rally Barbados outings together since 2008, Swann and Garrod have built up a good cv, the first top 10 finish coming in Sol RB10, when they won Group N (memorably also in Rally Jamaica the same year, the only crew to have done so). They have since finish second overall three times in their Impreza S12B, first to Roger Skeete’s similar car in 2014, then back-to-back behind Panton’s Ford Focus WRC in 2017 & ’18 before the arch-rivals and close friends both retired last year.

Of the build-up to this year’s delayed event, Swann says: “It’s been such a roller coaster, with the changing protocols and not knowing how early to travel to suit the quarantine rules for Barbados. So, last week it was all systems go: flights booked, entry submitted and a Covid test booked for this Friday, ready to fly next Monday. With many hotels still closed, we were able to have our property in Barbados inspected and passed for quarantine with the help of Blue Sky Luxury, our property management company and long term partner for Rally Barbados. So a big thanks to them, as it really will help us settle in more quickly.”

British contenders looking forward to new stages

Sol Rally Barbados 2020 will feature 19 timed special stages over two days in a heavily revised route visiting all but one of the island’s parishes and moving away from the tradition of Saturday stages in the north and Sunday’s in the south-east. The final schedule published today (October 14) details just under 100 kilometres of stages, including the longest test in recent memory – at 8.1 kilometres, Halton to Drax Hall will run three times on Saturday – and stage layouts that are either new or haven’t been used in nearly 20 years.

British front-runner Rob Swann is full of praise for the route: “It looks the Rally Club has made a great effort this year to mix things up a bit and make the event even more challenging. I am looking forward to the new rally route, particularly that long Drax Hall stage. We’ve always said it is so important to be right on your game straight out of the box . . . this year, that will be even more important. We’ll definitely need a good night’s sleep before heading in to that first thing on Saturday morning!”

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.

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