Bigger, better 2015 Sol Rally
A real classic. That’s what Sol Rally Barbados 2015 is expected to be as plans take shape for a memorable 25th anniversary staging of the Caribbean’s premier motor rally event organised by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC).
May 30 and 31 are the confirmed dates for the big event which would follow scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend, May 23 and 24.
“As usual, we are focused on the core values of our premier event – a seriously competitive rally, fought out in a relaxed, clubman-style atmosphere – but are determined to make next year especially memorable. As well as social events to mark the anniversary, plans are in hand for Sol RB15 to be a real classic, worthy of this important milestone in the club’s histor,” said Neil Barnard, public relations officer of the rally club.
According to Barnard, the club has been receiving enquiries about the dates daily, particularly from the core markets overseas, and with school holidays at an end, families have started planning for next year.
“Our thanks go to the Barbados Motoring Federation, (BMF), for allowing us to confirm our dates before publication of the ratified BMF calendar, so we can give our many long-term supporters time to prepare,” Barnard said.
Online entries will open on the official website – www.rallybarbados.net – on October 1, with the closing date in mid-May 2015.
The event had its beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally in 1990, and has grown over the years to become the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international and a key player in the Barbados’ sports-tourism product.
It contributes nearly $4 million to the island’s economy each year, much of it in vital foreign exchange, and accounts for close to 4 000 visitors at a traditionally low period.
The biggest competitor base remains the UK and Ireland, but the event has attracted competitors from as far away as Australia, Canada, Japan, Kenya, South Africa and the United States.
“We have welcomed at least 20 new competitors each year since 2011, and the enquiries about our 25th anniversary event suggest that trend will continue. We are confident of a further influx of newcomers from the UK and Ireland, while one long-established family of competitors from New Zealand even timed their holiday to coincide with Sol RB14,” Barnard said.
However, he is encouraging international crews to enter early, as the first 30 will again benefit from subsidies, especially those who have competed in previous years.
“It is fantastic that Sol Rally Barbados is on the ‘must-do’ list for so many overseas competitors, and a well-deserved tribute to those volunteer marshals and officials who help the Barbados Rally Club stage an event which measures up to world-class standards,” he added.
The records show that Roger “The Sheriff” Skeete has won 13 of the 25 events, including the first International All-Stage Rally in 1990 and Sol RB14 in June. Northern Ireland’s Kenny McKinstry became the first international winner in 1993; he won again in 1996, while countryman Kris Meeke was champion in 2008 and 2009.
England’s Paul Bird won in 2012 and 2013. Only two regional drivers have won the gruelling event; Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (1998) and Gary Gregg (2006), with the remaining victories shared by local drivers Paul Bourne (twice), Trevor Manning and Roger Mayers.
Sol Rally Barbados is a two-day tarmac rally, with around 22 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport and Works. The Scotiabank King of the Hill ‘shakedown’, run under a similar arrangement, features four timed runs on a roughly three-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for the main event.