Irish motor sport enthusiast Kevin Flanagan will participate in Sol Rally Barbados 2017 (June 2-4), just two years after he was first introduced to the island by winning a Prize Trip in a draw for volunteer marshals on the Circuit of Ireland. And next Thursday (January 12), Flanagan will be among the first visitors to the Sol RB17 stand at Autosport International (ASI) in the UK, where the event is exhibiting for the first time.
 Flanagan is looking forward to returning: “I had such a good time in Barbados when I won the trip in 2015 through the Circuit of Ireland marshals draw that I just had to return. I will be 50 in October this year, so that is my excuse! I’ll be visiting the Sol Rally Barbados stand at the Autosport show next week, hoping to meet up with some old friends and start getting into the mood.”
 Celebrating its 60th Anniversary year, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is launching a new campaign to attract more overseas spectators at ASI, Europe's largest motor sport show, which runs at the NEC Birmingham from January 12 to 15; two trade days are followed by two public days, with everyone welcome to visit Sol RB17 on stand 7400 in Hall 7. Supported by the island’s Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), which had backed the earlier Marshals’ Prize Trip promotions, the Club has partnered with British tour specialists Rally Travel to offer Official Spectator Packages.
 A veteran of more than 30 years working as a marshal and official, and now with around two decades of competition in the Mini under his belt in rallies, hill climbs, sprints and races, Flanagan is more than happy to give back to the sport with the time he volunteers on events. When he won the 2015 trip, he had been part of the Circuit of Ireland timekeeping team, but has also been Clerk of the Course at a few night navigation rallies and, many years ago, on the committee of Monaghan Motor Club. Originally from County Monaghan, he now lives in Kilpedder, County Wicklow in the Republic of Ireland, where he is a heating engineer.
 With Welsh co-driver Dominic Adams, Flanagan will compete in a Mini Cooper S, of which he became the third owner in 1993. Having started life as what he describes as “a bog-standard 1000cc Mini”, it became his daily driver for two years. First log-booked as a rally car in March 1997, the 39-year-old Mini now boasts a 112 horsepower 1350cc engine, while Flanagan adds: “I am just in the process of a full rebuild, with a number of upgrades, in order to have it in tip-top shape for Sol Rally Barbados 2017.”
 While he has many event class wins to his credit, Flanagan has never won a Championship title as a driver – “I have never attempted any”, he says – but he was Novice Navigator of the Year in Monaghan Motor Club in the late 1980s. He explains: “This was a seriously competitive championship with ‘expert’ navigators from Northern Ireland competing. Due to the regulations, any navigator from another jurisdiction could compete as a novice if they hadn’t competed in the Republic of Ireland before. I pipped a well-known International Rally Clerk of the Course for the win on the last event.”
 Strangely, there is a Barbados connection to Flanagan’s biggest rallying accident: in December 1991, he broke both ankles and dislocated the left one (at the same time) in an incident on the famous Moll’s Gap stage in Killarney, which left him in a wheelchair for a month and off work for much longer. He was the co-driver in an historic Hillman Imp, being driven by the late Gabriel Konig, who had been among the first British circuit racers to compete at Bushy Park in the early 1970s and was a regular visitor for 40 years.
Procter thwarted chasing sixth straight Croft win
Sol Rally Barbados visitors are pushing the pedal to the metal in the UK, where there is little off-season break in rallying activity, despite the sometimes wintry weather. The Croft racetrack in North Yorkshire played host to the first of its two annual winter single-venue rallies, the Swift Signs Christmas Stages, on the Tuesday after Christmas (December 27), with Kevin Procter chasing a sixth consecutive victory . . . but it was not to be, despite glorious unseasonal sunshine.
 Campaigning the Ford Fiesta which he debuted on Sol RB16 at Croft for the first time, Procter was equal second on the first of the day’s eight 6.10-mile stages, then took the lead with a stage win on SS2, but head gasket failure curtailed his event shortly afterwards; the winners were Guy Smith and Patrick Walsh in a Ford Focus WRC.
 Former Sol RB Group N winner Ryan Champion finished fourth in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and, while Barbados regular Steve Perez withdrew his entry a few days ahead of the event, his son Seb finished 14th overall and second in class in a Ford Escort MkII. Co-driver for Perez Jnr was Tom Woodburn, who has competed once in Barbados, alongside Paul Bourne, and has confirmed his interest in coming back for Sol RB17, if a suitable co-driver’s berth can be found.
Sol Rally Barbados (June 2-4, 2017) and Flow King of the Hill (May 28) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB17 marks the 10th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the second by communications provider Flow.
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