Two immaculate Peugeot rally cars are already seven days into a voyage that will establish a new distance record for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international. They left New Zealand on Friday, March 27, heading for the Bridgetown Port, where they will be off-loaded in time to compete in Sol Rally Barbados 2015.
  While drivers have flown from Australia and Kenya to compete, no cars have ever made such a lengthy journey in the 25-year history of the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event. Aboard the container ship Spirit of Sydney, the cars sail from the Port of Auckland via the Panama Canal to Cartagena in Colombia, where they will be trans-shipped for the final leg of the journey to Barbados . . . a total voyage of a little under 8,900 miles.
  The car’s owners face an even longer journey . . . at least in miles: New Zealand rallying legend Mike Marshall, son Nick and their family and friends will fly more than 10,000 miles via Los Angeles, Houston and Miami in the United States before arriving in Barbados around 32 hours later, nearly 24 hours of which will be spent in the air.
  Marshall was New Zealand’s top driver in the early 1970s, when Ford was opening up the country’s automotive market with some active promotion of the Escort MkI and, later, MkII; regularly winning more stages than anyone else – even against international competition – he also travelled to the UK, where his results included eighth in the Dukeries Rally in 1972, then third in the Snowman Rally the following year.
  He was part of the Woolmark Ford Team in Rally New Zealand in 1973, finishing second to team-mate Hannu Mikkola, then went on to win the event two years later – the global fuel crisis cancelled the 1974 event – in what was the first International success for the MkII Escort, after his team transferred the mechanicals from his MkI to a brand new MkII body shell, specially imported by Ford as an example for the new production line.
  Marshall read about rallying in Barbados in the British Cars & Car Conversions magazine around 15 years ago, and never forgot. When Emma Gilmour became the first female driver in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship last year, competing alongside fellow Kiwi Rhys Millen and there was a round at Bushy Park Barbados, Marshall needed no more encouragement to make the trip.
  As Marshall explains: “The plan was for Heather and I to catch Emma and Rhys in action, then participate in the official rally reconnaissance, to see if it was the type of event that might appeal to my son Nick.” But that’s where the plan changed: “We met Dick Mauger. His son Simon has arguably the fastest alloy block Escort in the UK, and Dick was out to do an exploratory recce with his wife, Kathy.”
  Mauger competed last year in a Nissan Micra from the Major Motorsport stable, finishing 33rd overall and winning M6 with co-driver Steve McNulty, all of this with Marshall and Heather acting as service crew. This year, Mauger will drive an historic-spec Ford Escort MkII, which has done very few events before this year . . . and there’s a wager on the table between the two rallying veterans.
  With co-driver Marc Keen, Marshall will drive a 200-horsepower Peugeot 106 S16 Maxi in Modified 6, while son Nick, aka ‘Jedi’, will compete in M7 in a 2-litre Peugeot 206 GTI 180, which develops around 260bhp. Designed for gravel and endurance events and built by the family’s Marshall Motorsport concern, Nick’s car has now been converted to tarmac spec, while the 106 Maxi has been recreated from a car Nick used to drive in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in Australia and New Caledonia.
  Nick’s co-driver is Australian Ray Baker, who lives in Charnwood in the Australian Capital Territory on the outskirts of Canberra. ‘Raybak’ has been competing since 2001, on both sides of a rally car. In 2004, he finished in the top 10 in the Rally Canberra National event as a driver, also won Class P3 in the 2007 Australian Rally Championship. As a co-driver, he won the 2011 Australian Rally Championship Privateers Cup and Premier League Co-driver, 2012 NSW Rally Champion 2wd Co-driver and 2014 Australian Tarmac Rally Champion Late Classic Co-driver.
Competitors reminded of on-line entry closing date
Entries for Sol RB15 close on Friday, May 1. While 106 on-line entries have so far been received on the official web site, more than 20 local competitors who participated either last year or the year before are yet to enter. Sol RB15 Rally Office Manager Jeanne Crawford urged competitors to move quickly: “It is important that we have a clear idea of our potential total entry, so I would encourage anyone who intends to enter to do so as quickly as possible, particularly as the final BMF rally safety training sessions are to be held next week, which are mandatory for all competitors.”
Sol Rally Barbados and LIME King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which was founded in 1957; Sol RB15 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and the eighth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.
Photo by David Cummins.
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