Biddy Barber: Race track granny
Throughout the annals of Barbadian motorsport there have been very few women who tackled the sport from the driver’s seat. Sure, we have and have had plenty women co-drivers – that multitasking job seems to suit women quite well.
Biddy Barber, however, was and in some instances still is one of the top female drivers to ever take on Bajan roads.
It all got started for Barber when she was 17 years old.
Barber was introduced to the club by Trevor Gale and started out with such names as Richard Cummings and Pat Gonsalves. When she entered motorsport, the club had hit its stride and ventured into dexterity and hill climbs, with the June rallies already under its belt.
Barber’s first driving experience was in a mini station wagon at the Yorkshire dexterity trials. At the police training school in her later years, she also acquired a Datsun 120Y Coupe.
Barber also goes way back to when Bushy Park was just a dirt track – but what got Biddy started?
“I always liked cars, so when I was able to join the club, I was 17 years old.” She was working at Sam Lord’s Castle at the time.
She has been a member of the Barbados Rally Club for 47 or 48 years. This was an achievement that the club honoured by making her a life member.
Barber also had the pleasure of having her son and daughter next to her as she drove. Unlike most, she liked competition. She was also really drawn to the stages of the navigation rallies and to the Mud Dogs – she took a liking to the various challenges they tackled.
Barber was never really into modern-day rallying but for her 60th birthday, her son took her to England where he was driving in the Nottingham Forest Rally. Barber had never done that kind of co-driving before, but her son knew the stages. She recalls having to tell him to drive faster, as he had just bought the car and was reluctant to push it.
This year Mud Dog fans would have noticed that Barber – or “Rally Granny”, as she is known – was missing from competition. She has had a few issues with her health, but she isn’t just relaxing. Barber has been preparing her jeep for next year, which she plans to make what could be her last year as a competitor.
In her younger years, Barber was known to encourage other women to get involved. And like all the other women competitors, she says, “We need more women.”
She doesn’t just drive, though. Barber also got involved in the administrative side of motorsport where in times past she would sell shirts for the Rally Club. These days, she helps out the Mud Dogs.
Barber also helped look after equipment and has also been a crew chief in rallies. Any help she can offer, she is willing to give.
During her life she has seen many things motorsport. Unlike most of the older generation who would stick to rigid tradition, Barber would love to see the sport evolve even further.
“I think we need some different types [of events].”
She suggested a gravel rally as it would be easier to control the vehicles than closed tarmac roads. She believes that if anything could kill motorsport in Barbados, it is crowd control as it gets difficult for the marshals.
Also nestled in her mind is a crazy but not impossible dream: bringing international rally star Ken Block’s gymkhana-style driving to Barbados. After seeing him on CNN, she thinks it could be done here in Barbados by people like Geoffrey Ullyett or Trevor Manning. Not exactly like that but similarly, using the streets of Bridgetown to showcase car control. She thinks it could bring new life to the sport.
Barber is also thinking about the drivers of the future. She thinks that Barbados has the capacity to compete in the World Rally Championship with a team of drivers including Neil Armstrong or maybe Josh Read.
“The drivers have the talent; we just need corporate Barbados to get on board,” she said.
Barber definitely lives up to her nickname – she is truly Rally Granny. And whether competing or assisting, she will certainly be there if she can.