As the protocols introduced by the Government’s Covid-19 Monitoring Unit during the early months of the pandemic were progressively eased during the first half of 2022, so workaday life in the island slowly began to return to some degree of normality . . . as did the much-missed weekend escapism of motor sport. While competitors had managed to compete behind closed doors in some disciplines at either Bushy Park or the Vaucluse Raceway, the island’s vast body of spectators, among the most enthusiastic and vociferous in the world, had been left out in the cold (metaphorically speaking, this being a tropical island and all) for the best part of two years . . . 
Their enforced wait was rewarded at the end of March, when the Motoring Club Barbados Inc (MCBI) returned to closed road rallying in the south-eastern parish of St Philip, but that was only a teaser for the bigger events to come. Celebrating its 65th Anniversary, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) attracted more than 40 entries for its Shakedown Double Header at the end of April, with huge crowds lining the familiar Malvern stage in St John. 
But it was Sol Rally Barbados and its associated events, postponed from 2021, which really confirmed that the Lockdowns and other privations imposed by the pandemic had done nothing to dilute the thirst for motor sport among island fans .. . or the many overseas visitors for whom the event begins as a one-off bucket list trip before becoming an annual ‘must-do’. Not only were the locals welcoming back the island’s favourite spectator sport, but also joining in a collective National ‘sigh of relief’ that they could once again mix with friends and family in what the General Manager of Sol Barbados Roger Barrow, representing the title sponsor at the Prizegiving, described as “the longest picnic area in Barbados”. 
During its evolution from small beginnings as the International All-Stage Rally of 1990 into the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, the Rally Club’s premier event has attracted more than 600 crews from 32 countries; and each of those competitors has arrived with a service crew, family and friends – in recent years, Sol Rally Barbados has accounted for as many as 4,000 visitor bed nights over a three-week period in a traditionally quiet time of year. 
Eight of the competitors in 2022 have now participated 10 or more times, their combined visits adding up to 122, proof positive of the effects of the Barbados Rally Bug, for which no Latin name has yet been identified. A lasting spin-off from Sol Rally Barbados has been the growing number of competitors, both regional and International, who return throughout the year to compete in other rounds of the Rally Club’s Championship. Cars from Jamaica, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the UK and North America are now based in the island and prepared by local mechanics in a burgeoning motor sport business. Island ace Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew added victory in Sol RB22 to their earlier win in 2019 in the Subaru Impreza WRC S12 in which Skeete’s father Roger had previously claimed three of his 13 wins. Much of the interest, though, surrounded the R5 category, which is fast replacing the WRC class, home to older cars, more expensive to maintain as parts supply becomes a growing problem. Of a record number of 15 entered, including British hotshoe Frank Bird, whose father Paul is a double winner in the island, the attention of local fans was focussed firmly on 18-year-old Zane Maloney, making his rallying debut in a Skoda Fabia R5 owned by his uncle Stuart. Accompanied by experienced co-driver Kreigg Yearwood, the FIA Formula 3 racer became the youngest winner of King of the Hill, now sponsored by First Citizens, and was a front-runner in Sol RB22 until he crashed out on Sunday’s opening stage. 
Zane learned his trade at Bushy Park, winning Barbados Karting Association (BKA) titles before heading to Europe to pursue his dream of a seat in Formula 1. With the logo on his race suit and Trident Motorsport F3 car, Zane has been putting Bushy Park and the island in front of huge crowds as Grands Prix at the world’s most popular circuits – indeed, he claimed his first F3 win at the iconic Belgian circuit Spa- Francorchamps just days before this was written. 
In parallel with the global appeal of Sol Rally Barbados and the emerging circuit racing brand that is ‘The Boy from Barbados’, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc has been promoting the destination with the theme ‘Motorsport Island’ to build on the sport’s popularity. Many tourists have already espoused that concept by trying out Bushy Park’s popular Karting Experiences, which attract up to 300 patrons each month, while racers from Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago were finally able to return to action for the first time in nearly two years when Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc’s (BPMSI) Radical Caribbean Cup restarted in July. 
Behind the island’s growing international recognition is a calendar of grass roots motor sport under the umbrella of the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF), to which the BKA, BPMSI, BRC and MCBI are affiliated, along with the Barbados Association of Dragsters & Drifters (BADD), Barbados Auto Racing League (BARL) and Vaucluse Raceway Motorsport Club (VRMSC). The BRC’s autocross and off-road navigational events attract newcomers, while VRMSC’s BimmaCup does so too, but also appeals to former competitors who still need to scratch that motor sport itch on an affordable budget. 
And there are two other areas of the sport which the BMF has been concentrating on as the sport has emerged from the pandemic. In July last year, it co- ordinated the biggest-ever training session for volunteer marshals and officials, around 150 participating in a four-day programme, including visitors from Antigua, Guyana and Jamaica. And then there’s the virtual world, which enjoyed exponential growth during the Covid Lockdowns. Caribbean Sim Motorsport (CSM), the latest affiliate to join the BMF, runs a Clubman Race Series sponsored by Bushy Park and oversaw the selection process for the BMF e-sports representative who attended the World Motorsport Games organised by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). 
Finally, did you know that Barbados is one of only 10 of the 130 or so countries affiliated to the FIA with a population of less than 1 million? But between BMF President Senator Andrew Mallalieu being a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council and a regular F1 and F2 Steward, Zane Maloney’s strong first season in FIA Formula 3 and the worldwide reputation of Sol Rally Barbados, this little rock really does punch above its weight!