Roger Skeete

Wednesday, 28th May 2014

Roger Skeete – a motor sport icon

 

Whatever the sport, winning 12 editions of a top-line competition is a major achievement. And that is what the record shows for Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete, between the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) first International All-Stage Rally in 1990 and Sol Rally Barbados 2011.

And that record could stand for ever: only three others have won the region’s premier motor sport event more than once, Paul Bourne, Kenny McKinstry and Kris Meeke, each with two victories, so reaching 12 will be a long haul.

Skeete’s introduction to motor sport came in 1979, when he helped Mark Stoute prepare “a ridiculously fast Mini Cooper S”, and it was not long before Skeete turned his hand to driving . . . and winning. His early competition cars were rear-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancers, his first victory a loose event at Mount Wilton in 1980.


The familiar E343 plate was carried on three Lancers, before what Skeete later described as “a very kind offer” from Quality Motors in 1986 brought about a switch to a Group A Peugeot 205 GTi. The same year, he formed what became a long-term relationship with Texaco . . . hence ‘The Sheriff’, a nickname coined by the late ‘Tiny’ Harrison, Bushy Park announcer, in reference to the Texaco star on the car’s bonnet.


Skeete became the man to beat - in 1986, for instance, he won the second of his five consecutive Speed Event Championships, the Tiger Malt International 500, the Red Stripe 500 and the special stage trophy on the Rothmans 500 June Rally. The Banks Super Sprint series at Bushy Park was another arena in which Skeete excelled and, when the ciruit reopened in 1992, he went racing for the first time, was Champion Driver in May 1994, and conquered all-comers in Guyana the same year.

Despite all that went before, however, Skeete’s record in the BRC’s blue riband event will be best-remembered . . . for all but two of his first 10 wins, achieved between 1990 and 2004, he was partnered by Dave Crawford, as both co-driver and engineer. They won in Peugeot 205GTi and 306 S16, beating Michael Gill into second in four out of six, before moving on to Ford Escorts. Two further victories each in Cosworth and WRC versions made it 10 wins in 15 events; only twice had Skeete finished without winning, a signal achievement.

The Escort was destroyed in a big accident in October 2004, starting a comparatively lean period by Skeete’s high standards. A season each in a Peugeot 306 Maxi and Ford Focus WRC, then two years in an Escort WRC, produced little by way of results, but his acquisition of an ex-Petter Solberg Subaru Impreza WRC S12 set him back on winnings ways.

With new co-driver Louis Venezia, he won Sol Rally Barbados in 2010 and ’11, setting up a ‘hat-trick of hat-tricks’ for 2012 – he had previously won in 1990-’92 and 2000-’02 – but drive-train failure while leading robbed him of what would have been a fairy-tale result.

At some point, ‘The Sheriff’ will hand in his badge, but the name Skeete will remain in local entry lists; a multiple champion with the Barbados Karting Association, son Dane has already started his rallying career . . . initially in a Peugeot, of course!

 

 

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