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Panton, Fennell large and in charge


PR/EZRA STUART

Panton, Fennell large and in charge

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Reigning Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) champion driver, Jamaican Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell Jr have sounded early warning shots ahead of this year’s Sol Barbados Rally.

In the final test before Flow King of the Hill and Sol Rally Barbados, they won the Carter’s Pit-Stop Stages on Sunday in their Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06.

Britain’s Rob Swann, who won in 2016, followed Panton home for the second straight year, a little over seven seconds adrift, co-driven in the Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury/Cygnet Plant Subaru Impreza WRC S12B by Darren Garrod.

Roger Hill and Graham Gittens, in their Toyota Corolla WRC, were the first local crew to finish the 10-stage, 42-kilometre event which put the 38 starters through their paces with the weather also playing its part in the challenge.

Panton won six stages, Swann three, as the visitors eased their way back into competition.

While Panton had shaken the car down at the Motoring Club’s event two weeks ago, he said there was still work to do.

“I wanted to get back into the groove with Mike on the notes; we’re not quite there yet, as I made some mistakes, and the mixture of weather added to the challenge.”

The top five were completed by the leading Group A cars, who had enjoyed a nip and tuck battle all day. Just 3.3 seconds separated Avinash Chatrani, in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI and Andrew Mallalieu, newcomer to the class in his Subaru Impreza.

Chatrani won five stages and Mallalieu three, while Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho (Sushi Evo IX) took the other two to finish seventh overall.

But for a spin on Super Stage 1, Scotland’s Andy Scott, who finished ninth, might have been closer in his Ford Fiesta R5.

The day’s first shock came early, with Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic) fastest overall on the first Malvern to Wilson Hill.

With his car now in SuperModified 2, Clarke said: “My plan was to be out of the box fast, because I know the other 2wd cars are quick from the start. It was a definite surprise to be fastest overall on SS1, then fastest 2wd heading into lunch; I didn’t expect that at all.”

Clarke was also in the top 10 overall all morning on Pool to Society, to lie third overall at the lunch break, leading a four-car 2wd battle covered by 9secs; just behind were SM3 leader Rhett Watson (BMW M3), then SM2 runners Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) and Barry Mayers (Ford Fiesta).

Watson eventually prevailed, finishing sixth overall, having spent the early part of the day in R & D mode.

“I took the first two stages to try a new tyre. They felt good, so we had to confidence to push a bit more.”

Mayers finished eighth, snatching SM2 from Clarke, after Skeete retired when a rim came off and spun him backwards into the foliage.

“Today was up and down with the weather. We did some more changes on the car, which we were happy with on dry tarmac, but the pace isn’t there in the wet,” Mayers said.

Paul Horton of the Turks & Caicos Islands (Citroen DS 3 R3 MAX) won Modified 2 despite a mid-stage excursion into a canefield while Jeremy Gonsalves (Opel Corsa) won SM1, Edward Corbin (Daihatsu Charmant) M1, Greg Cozier (Ford Escort RS) Historic 2 and Trevor Mapp (Mitsubishi Colt Mivec RS) Clubman 1. The day’s closest margin of victory came in Clubman 2 where all the competitors drove BMW 318ti compacts.

Despite not winning any stages, the consistent Allan Kinch beat Ryan Wood, who won three, to the class win by just 1.19 seconds, with last year’s C2 champion Stuart Garcia another eight seconds adrift. Early leader Derek Edwards, who was fastest on all the day’s other stages, slipped to fourth.

The most high-profile non-finisher was Roger Skeete, who retired the Subaru Impreza WRC S12B after two stages, reporting a misfire. (PR/EZS)

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