Competing in Sol Rally Barbados has been on English electrician and clubman rally driver Stuart Austin’s bucket list for years . . . and he will finally make the trip in 2016. A member of the UK’s Southern Car Club (SCC), he had learned of the event through the promotions organised by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) at Rallye Sunseeker, organised by SCC for three decades.
  Austin told “I have been talking about going to Barbados for years, with another long-standing Club member and old mate as co-driver. But he kept having other commitments and then said he couldn’t make it until 2018 . . . I couldn’t wait that long! And we had a group of 15 or so friends and family who all wanted to make the trip, so we just had to change the plan.”
  The Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol RB16 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 3-5; it is preceded by Scrutineering and the King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ event the previous weekend (May 28/29), which will offer local enthusiasts their first chance to see overseas crews up close and in action.
  West Sussex-based Austin will now have Max Utting as co-driver in the Austin Powell Ltd Subaru Impreza, the sister car to that campaigned by Max’s father, Wug Utting, who has a string of class wins and podium finishes to his credit over the last decade or so, including a third-place finish in Wales Rally GB National Rally in 2015. Among Wug’s earlier results was outright victory in the 2011 Severn Valley Stages, a round of the ANCRO National Rally Championship, with Max as co-driver.
  After many seasons campaigning a Peugeot 205GTi on tarmac events, Austin switched to four-wheel-drive and the Impreza, although his outings are sporadic; in preparation for Sol RB16, Austin and Utting tackled the Sherrards Resourcing South Downs Stages at Goodwood. On a typically wet English February day, when a number of cars failed to finish, they came home 27th overall and eighth in class, one place behind Sol RB regular Simon Wallis (Impreza N10), who they will meet again in Barbados this year.
  Co-driver Utting has a wealth of experience on both sides of the car, his father having urged him first into the co-driver’s seat, and then into driving. He won his class in a Peugeot 205 Mi16 on his first outing in 2005, while the recent highlights have included six class wins, including Wales Rally GB National Rally in 2015, cause for celebration on the event his father won outright.
New car arrives as Swann confirms sponsors for 2016
As Sol Rally Barbados regular Rob Swann’s newly-acquired Subaru Impreza WRC S12B was off-loaded at the Bridgetown Port in Barbados yesterday (Friday), he confirmed that Elegant Hotels and Blue Sky Luxury will be his principal sponsors for his ninth visit to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International. As part of the run-up to Sol RB16, he is entered for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Shakedown Stages on April 24.
  Swann told “I’m really excited about the new partnership with Elegant Hotels, as plans are being but in place for a programme of promotions which will benefit everyone involved, not just our team, but also the event. I can also confirm that Brett Judd at ProAuto Works will run the car on all the events . . . although my Chief Tech, Reece Swann, will there to help at King of the Hill and Rally Barbados!
  “We had a busy couple of weeks to get the car ready. All is good now, although we had no time to test, so I’m looking forward to the first rally, which will be more of a shakedown for me in the new car.” His co-driver for the Shakedown Stages will be former BRC Champion Sean Gill, who won the BRC’s premier event as co-driver to Kenny McKinstry in 1996; at KotH, he will have Aaron Rayner alongside, with Aled Edwards returning to the seat in Sol RB16 – they finished sixth last year.
• not everyone’s plans for Sol RB16 are going as smoothly as Rob Swann’s! Former FIA Middle East F2 Rally Champion Simon Nutter and son Robert have spent many hours rebuilding the Skoda Fabia in which he competed in the Caminos del Incas in Peru in 2007. They were meant to reunite the car with fellow Incas competitor Howard Paterson’s identical Fabia at RB10, but the trip fell through . . . and this year’s plans looked set to fall apart, too, less than four weeks before cars are due at Portsmouth for shipping. Nutter explains: “My first trip out after re-building the Fabia did not go to plan - less than a mile from home, we took a hefty hit on the driver’s side from a car on a roundabout! Thanks to the power of friends on Facebook, however, I have a bottom sill coming from Mark Lowe and a front wing and door from another chap, so we should be back on track.” Since Nutter reported the incident to last week, social media images have emerged of the Fabia looking in much better health.
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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Photo credit Az Edwards/