Four British friends who last rallied together on one of the world’s toughest events almost a decade ago will be reunited in competition for the first time since then on Sol Rally Barbados 2016. They are among more than 50 overseas entries so far posted on the official web site – - for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, which will run from Friday to Sunday, June 3 to 5.
  Howard Paterson, his wife Ruth, Simon Nutter and Sean Kukula last competed together in the 10-day Caminos del Incas in Peru in 2007, which boasted the longest stages in the world, at the highest altitude. They competed in identical Skoda Fabias, which had been purpose-built – “for strength, not speed” – for an endurance event from London to Delhi; when that was cancelled, they headed for South America.
  Paterson and Nutter, both former FIA Middle East F2 Rally Champions, were among 87 drivers from six countries, headed by Finland’s four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen in a Subaru Impreza WRX. They enjoyed mixed fortunes – despite mechanical issues along the way, the Patersons finished 23rd overall, the first British crew to complete the event since Tony Fall won in 1969 in a Ford Escort, while Ruth was the first female to finish in event’s 41-year history.
  For Nutter and co-driver Kukula, however, engine problems halted their progress on the first day. As Kukula remembers it: “We spent nearly a week in various garages, re-building the engine. We then drove 1000 kilometres through a foggy night over the Andes to the start point of the final day and slept for 40 minutes in the car, before doing the 1000kms of the rally back again.”
  Nearly 20 years after his first trip to Barbados, Paterson entered Sol RB10, when the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) celebrated the 20th Anniversary of its blue riband event. His ninth-place finish in a Volkswagen Golf GTI in 1991 had been the first overseas result, but he failed to repeat that when mechanical problems intervened in 2010, resulting in retirement on day one.
  A veteran of more than 100 International rallies, including finishing the London to Sydney and London to Mexico Marathons, Paterson continues to work as a race and rally instructor and development driver for manufacturers. He and Ruth enjoyed a short family holiday in the island last November, while planning their Sol RB16 outing, when the Skoda will carry the livery of Little Bristol Beach Bar in Speightstown.
  Nutter was originally down to join the Patersons in 2010, but the trip fell through, so he is looking forward to a second chance, this time with son Robert as co-driver, just reward for the time he has put in re-building the Fabia, which is backed by Silverblue Tours for the Barbados trip. Having first competed in 2011, Robert’s 21st birthday present was the chance to drive the Dubai International Rally in his father’s Subaru Impreza – he finished a creditable eighth overall, a better outcome than the following year, when he and his father swapped seats, only for Simon to “blow the engine apart”.
  Kukula will be driving a Ford Escort MkII, sponsored by, Lifeline Fire & Safety Systems, WOSP Performance, TRS Motorsport Equipment, Cobra Seats, DMD Motorsport Engineering and Tilton Engineering. The car is currently undergoing a ground-up rebuild, inspired by entering Sol RB16, as Kukula explained: “The car was last used in 1997, when I decided it needed a pair of new wings and a tidy up - 17 years on, a pair of wings had progressed to a complete strip down and projected upgrade to historic specification. It was time to finally get it sorted, so a target date was required: hey presto, Rally Barbados here we come!”
  Kukula’s co-driver will be his partner Emma Arthur, who will need to postpone her birthday celebrations for a couple of days, as the date falls on the Friday start of Sol RB16. They visited Barbados for a scuba-diving holiday in 2000, as Emma remembers: “We saw lots of reef, but none of the island. That will certainly change on this trip.”
Entry list three-quarters full with three months to go
With three months to go before on-line entries close for Sol Rally Barbados 2016, the total has reached 75, three-quarters of the Barbados Rally Club’s entry cap of 100. Once again, huge overseas interest is driving the positive figures, with more than a quarter of the 50-plus regional and international entries posted by newcomers.
  Sol RB16 Chairman Mark Hamilton said: “The effort made by the Rally Club’s loyal volunteers over many years, along with the sustained support we enjoy from our partnership with tourism stakeholders, both Government and NGO, has enabled us to create what continues to be must-do event, particularly for teams from the UK.
  “The pattern of entries is much the same as last year, although we are so far not seeing as many local entries coming in. But the percentage of overseas first-timers again proves that we must be doing something right . . . and that the word of mouth support is out there!”
Sol Rally Barbados is a tarmac rally, with around 22 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport & Works; Sol RB16 and the previous Sunday’s King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ event, are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Sol RB16 marks the ninth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.
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