PANTON, PROCTER SIGN FOR SOL RALLY BARBADOS Final time-line confirmed in Supplementary Regulations

Friday, 24th March 2017

Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton, winner of Sol Rally Barbados for the past two years, and Britain’s Kevin Procter are confirmed today (March 24) for this year’s 28th running of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International. Both look set to be better prepared than last year for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event, where they join island rallying legend and 13-time winner Roger Skeete and UK regular Rob Swann as potential winners.
 As the BRC marks its 60th Anniversary, Sol RB17 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4, and Flow King of the Hill, on which the seeding for the main event is based, the previous Sunday (May 28). Since entries opened on October 1 on the official web site, www.rallybarbados.net, more than 80 have been posted, two-thirds from overseas.
 Last year, Panton had not rallied his Rubis/Sandals Barbados/KIG Ford Focus WRC06 during the six months between winning Rally Jamaica 2015 and Flow King of the Hill, so was very short of seat time. For 2017, however, he has confirmed a full Barbados season, combining BRC events with those of the Motoring Club of Barbados Inc, which kicks off its calendar on Sunday, April 9.
 The event’s first regional winner in 1998, in a Toyota Celica GT4 with co-driver John de Mercado, Panton has steadily built a reputation as the region’s most successful driver; last year’s victory with co-driver Mike Fennell Jnr brought his total in Barbados to three. Twice the Caribbean Rally Champion (1996 & ’98), Panton is unique in having won regional rallying’s ‘Big Three’ - tarmac in Barbados (1998, 2015 & ‘16), gravel in Jamaica (nine times between 1994 and 2015) and Trinidad & Tobago (2011 & ‘13) - and has also finished on the podium in all three for two straight seasons (2012 & ‘13).
 Procter had enjoyed even less seat time than Panton last year, having not driven his newly-acquired Procter’s Coaches Ford Fiesta until it arrived in Barbados mid-week between KotH and Sol RB16. Despite a few teething problems, Procter claimed his eighth top 10 result, third in WRC-1, with Philip Hopkins on the notes. For Sol RB17, his co-driver will be Andrew Roughead, who will be competing in Barbados for the first time.
 In Sol RB15, Procter finally won WRC-2, catering for World Cars built before the end of 2003, in his Subaru Impreza WRC S7, having finished third to Britain’s Roger Duckworth (Impreza WRC S6) and local Toyota dealer Roger Hill (Corolla WRC) in Sol RB13, then second to Duckworth the following year. With a best overall result of fourth (RB09, Impreza), he has also been highest-placed European driver (RB05, Ford Puma Evo 4 x 4) and highest-placed overseas driver (RB04, Ford Escort Cosworth).
 While pressure of work has prevented Procter from contesting many UK rallies since last year, he has put those few events to good use, gaining more seat time in the Fiesta: he had a class win on his first gravel outing in the car on the Trackrod Forest Stages in October, won the Neil Howard Memorial Stages at Oulton Park a month later, although he retired from the Christmas Stages at Croft in December with head gasket failure.
 Hugely popular with fans for his flamboyant and attacking driving style, Procter was in action back at Croft last Sunday (March 19) in the opening round of the Toyo Tyres MSA British Rallycross Championship, where he finished second to Supercar debutante Nathan Heathcote (Citroen C4), to begin his bid to challenge for a title that has so far eluded him. He said: “We made some really good starts in the first two qualifying races, but the third one was terrible, then the start in the final was disappointing but I’m quite happy with the result and credit to Nathan for winning. If I’d had another lap, I think I could have caught him, but this is a solid start to the year.”

Final time-line confirmed in Supplementary Regulations

Competitors across the world and the organising team in the Caribbean are now focussed on the final time-line for Sol Rally Barbados 2017, as the Supplementary Regulations (SRs), to be published shortly on the official web site, rallybarbados.net, confirm the remaining key dates for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event.
 The on-line closing date for local and regional entries is just five weeks away, Friday, April 28, while European competitors need to have their houses in order a week earlier, as April 21 is the final date for delivery of cars to Portsmouth on the English south coast, ready for shipping on the Geest Line freighter Benguela Stream the following Tuesday.
 The document, available as a PDF download under the Competitor drop-down tab, also specifies other important dates in the time-line, with just nine weeks to go before the new-for-2017 Rally Show at Simpson Motors (Saturday, May 27) kicks off an action-packed 10-day programme of competition and social events.
 Sol RB17 Chairman Mark Hamilton said: “I imagine I am not alone in almost being caught out by how quickly the time has passed, but the countdown is on. We have more than 80 on-line entries, with some interesting newcomers who are just now getting their ducks in a row, so we can confirm their participation. I would urge local and regional competitors who have not yet posted their entries to do so, as we have identified around 15 to 20 of the ‘usual suspects’ who are not yet on the list.”

Sol Rally Barbados (June 2-4, 2017) and Flow King of the Hill (May 28) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB17 marks the 10th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the second by communications provider Flow.
Photo Cory Reece

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web sites: www.rallybarbados.net; www.barbadosrallyclub.com

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