The Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) 2018 MudDogs Safari Championship kicks off with Sunday’s (March 11) March Safari, with title sponsorship from Chefette Restaurants for the fifth year. A new class structure, devised in an effort to broaden participation in the branch of the sport – navigational rallying – on which the BRC was founded in 1957, has already borne fruit, with a number of new names on the entry list.
 Four months after the Nassco November Safari sealed the Champion Driver and Navigator titles for Leslie Alleyne and Chris O’Neal respectively for a record fifth consecutive season, the MudDogs – the BRC’s off-road division – are preparing to do battle once again for the prized Peter Farmer Memorial Trophy and the Sextant Challenge Trophy. Alleyne and O’Neal in the Simpson Motors/Shell Spirax /Shell Rimula/Maxxis Isuzu D-Max are one of 16 crews confirmed at Tuesday’s (March 6) Briefing Meeting at the Country View Bar, Market Hill, St George.
 The new classes – the former Pro and Novice replaced, simply, by A and B – have been devised following a detailed analysis of the last three seasons, in which the average scores of all competitors were calculated. Then, using the average over those three seasons, the committee looked at the spread of results and determined that the cut-off for Class B would be any competitor with an average below 50 points, equivalent to sixth place or lower. New competitors will also start off in Class B.
 MudDogs Chairman Ricky Holder explained: “We have noted falling entries in the Novice class and also felt that competitors were being moved from Novice into Pro prematurely. We think this revised system is a fairer way of dealing with that, so might encourage some new blood into the sport . . . and I am happy to say that the entry for Sunday’s event includes a number of new faces and there’s an almost equal split between the classes. The averages will be reviewed at the end of each season, so anyone in Class B who averages 50 points or more would be upgraded to Class A.”
 Route-setters for the season-opener are Ryan Corbin and Dustin Edwards, who finished third in the Driver and Navigator standings last year. The first crew will leave the start at Mahogany Ridge, Plum Tree Road, St Thomas, at 8.01am on Sunday, heading for the lunch halt at around 11.30am at Chefette Speightstown; suitably refreshed, the crews will then tackle a second route, leading them to the centre of the island and the finish at approximately 4.30pm at the Country View Bar.
 The Shelbury Construction Trophy, won by George and Gary Mendes in its inaugural season in 2017, will again be awarded to the highest points-scorer in the Driver Challenges. These are popular with competitors and also provide a spectacle for the fans, with Sunday’s Safari including two tests of skill, both during the morning route; the first will be shortly after the start, at around 8.30am at Vaucluse, with the second following at 10.00am at the bottom of Turners Hall hill.
 The March Safari Prizegiving will follow publication of the results at the Country View Bar next Tuesday (March 13) at 7.00pm.
Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship
Round 1 - March 11 - March Safari
Class A
1 Chris Armstrong/Wayne Clarke (Toyota Hilux)
3 Dean Springer/Bridget Garity (Toyo Tires/Eastern Veterinary Clinic Ford Ranger)
4 Michael Ward/Warrick Eastmond (Regional Fire & Security/Quality Tyre Suzuki Jimny)
6 Trevor Manning/Derek Gill (Garbage Master Mitsubishi L200)
7 Willie Hinds/Wayne Manning (Black Bess Construction Suzuki Samurai)
9 Leslie Alleyne/Chris O'Neal (Simpson Motors/Shell Spirax/Shell Rimula/Maxxis Isuzu D-Max)
11 Jean-Marc Cozier/Andrew Croney (Country View Bar/Market Hill Farms/Westside Security Services Honda Pioneer)
14 Stephen Mayers/David Reece (Toyota Hilux)
15 George Mendes/Alex Kellman (G & G Sales & Services Inc Mitsubishi Sportero)
Class B
2 Samuel Manning/Tristan Hoyos (Garbage Master/Aquarius Services Toyota Hilux)
5 Jina Scheper/Aaron Lehman (Suzuki Jimny)
8 Damien Johnson/Justin Lynch (Dce Tuned Toyota Hilux)
10 Yosuf Patel/Bilal Patel (Aquarius Faucets/ToolCraft Mitsubishi L200)
12 John Pinto/Nicholas Branson (Structural Systems GMC Sonoma)
13 Kai Prescod/Kristina Pinto (Ford PK XLT)
16 Richard Hinkson/Kevin-Jon Manning (Windforce Tyres Suzuki Samurai)
Chefette MudDogs Safari Championship: Round 1 - March 11; Round 2 - April 14; * MudFest - May 1; Round 3 - June 23/24; Round 4 - September 16; Round 5 - November 11. * non-championship event
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