Former British Ladies Rally Champion Shelly Taunt has unfinished business in the Caribbean, after she and co-driver Julie Murphy retired on day one of Sol Rally Barbados last year. The team’s determination to repeat what Taunt describes as “an amazing experience” looked set to be thwarted by a clash of dates, but a perfect solution has been found . . . the acquisition of a second car, specifically to ship to Sol RB16.
  Taunt was on the horns of a dilemma, torn between her new-found interest in Sol RB and a long-term commitment to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, one of the world’s most iconic motor sport events. Winner of Saturday’s Driver of the Day Award at the 2014 FoS, she has spent four days each year since 2011 giving passenger rides on the Forest Rally Stage.
  ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’ is a sentiment first expressed, it is generally accepted, by the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates . . . and the team decided that there was only one way to ensure that they could return to Barbados. So, their trusty ‘Blue Scooby’, a Group N Subaru Impreza, has a new stablemate - ‘Tilly Tarmac’, an asphalt spec Impreza N10, has arrived from Southern Ireland.
  Despite the non-finish in 2015, Taunt was ecstatic: “Our first visit to Sol Rally Barbados was such an amazing experience, right from the start of planning at the beginning of the year to coming home in June! Before we left last year, we had already decided we were going back! The rally, the people and the place are amazing.”
  The Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, Sol RB16 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 3 to 5, with Scrutineering and the King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ event the previous weekend, May 28 and 29. Last year’s four-week gap between Barbados and Goodwood has been cut to three, creating the issue; even last year, it was really tight, explains Taunt: “We collected the car at 11.30am on the Wednesday of Goodwood week. Thanks to arrangements made by Jeanne Crawford and the Rally Club team, our car was released first by Geest, along with Roger Duckworth’s WRC.
  “We drove 20 minutes up the road to Goodwood and straight to our service bay. The car was still full of spares inside, with the roof rack bursting on top! My fabulous mechanics Gordon Guest, Luke Perry and Matt ‘Boss’ McCabe, got straight to work and transformed it from a slightly bruised tarmac car into a shiny clean gravel car.”
  Each driver at Goodwood, on the Hill or Forest Rally Stage, is individually invited to participate. Taunt says: “It is one of the biggest motor sport garden parties in the world; last year was our fourth consecutive appearance; to be invited is a huge honour and one of biggest highlights of my rallying career. Giving passenger rides to the public is fantastic, just to see their faces, and I also help raise funds for the Richard Burns Foundation by giving rides to their guests.”
  Taunt has won more than 20 titles since she started rallying in 1995 after winning a ‘Find a Lady Rally Driver’ competition, half of them with Murphy. While a number of those titles are Ladies Champion – from her first in the Association of Central Southern Motor Clubs Championship in 1998 up to her Association of North East Midland Motor Clubs title in 2012 – she has also won the British F1400 Championship, the BRC RallyMasters Production Cup twice and three Class Championships.
  Looking back on Sol RB15, Taunt says: “Our plan of attack was to get to the finish, but this didn't happen due to me being a tad heavy right-footed into a square left after a very long fast straight! Although repairs were made, we had Goodwood at the back of our minds, so the car had to return to the UK in full working order.
  “Now, thanks to sponsors old and new, we can hopefully claim a good result. We’re excited to have Infinity on the Beach in St Lawrence Gap on board, also Jantech Budge Auto Services, ASF Signs, Guest & Fiore Bricklayers, Combined Scaffolding, Jim Griffiths Car Body Repairs and 710 Oil (FUCHS). I hope we can repay their faith in us.”
UK visitors kick off the 2016 season at home
As the rally season kicks into high gear throughout the British Isles, Sol Rally Barbados connections will soon enjoy their first action of the new season: on Saturday (February 13), Simon Wallis enters the South Downs Stages at Goodwood Race Circuit in the Group N Subaru Impreza he has already confirmed for Sol RB16; the same day, 300 miles to the north in Wales, the BTRDA Championship opens with the Cambrian Rally, Barbados regular and double BTRDA Champion Steve Perez (Ford Focus WRC) starting at number two and Scotland’s Barry Groundwater (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X), who finished fourth in Group A in Sol RB15, also among the leading entries.
  The following weekend, Groundwater will tackle the opening round of the Scottish Championship, the Snowman Rally (February 20), along with Shaun Sinclair (ex-Dean Serrao Impreza WRC S9) and the Lancers of Donnie MacDonald and Brian Watson (Lancer WRC), who were all part of the Scottish contingent in Barbados last year.
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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