Nearly three decades after he first entered, former British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan will finally get to compete in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) blue riband event this year. He will drive a Hyundai i20 R5 run by island regular Andy Scott’s Albatec Racing outfit, alongside European Rally Championship leader New Zealander Hayden Paddon in a similar Hyundai and Scott’s own Ford Fiesta S2000T in Sol Rally Barbados 2023 (June 9-11), also King of the Hill the previous weekend.

The Irishman entered in 1997 but a family emergency prevented him from making the trip, since when the event has remained on his ‘bucket list’. Confirmation of his entry follows the conclusion of the UK’s 2022-2023 Circuit Rally Championship last Sunday (April 16), in which he and co-driver Ashleigh Morris finished second in the standings, claiming a number of podiums, including third in the final round at Anglesey Circuit.

O’Donovan says: “I have wanted do Rally Barbados for a long time, and finally this year we are making that happen. I was originally going to miss King of the Hill because of a clash with the Euro RX round in Portugal, but doing this rally is a bucket-list event for me so I’ve decided to do both the hillclimb and the rally and I intend to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.”

For Barbados, his co-driver will be England’s Jack Morton, who has competed in the island three times before with a best result of third place in 2018 with Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC07). He returned the following year to finish seventh with Graham Coffey (Fiesta S2000T), then again last year, sitting with Bird’s son Frank (Fiesta Rally2), although they were not classified in the results. The 28-year-old has been co-driving for more than a decade on both tarmac and gravel events, with recent victories alongside Bird Jnr and Callum Black and since last year has been sitting with Norway’s rising star Ola Nore Jnr on events in the UK and Europe.

O’Donovan added: “I have really, really enjoyed doing the Circuit Rally Championship over the last few months in Albatec’s Hyundai i20 and I can’t wait to take on the challenge of competing in Barbados. Ashleigh has been brilliant co-driving for me over the winter, and the reason for switching is just because I am so inexperienced in Barbados compared to the other guys, it will be important to have a co-driver with experience of the island alongside me, and I’m looking forward to working with Jack.”

O’Donovan’s rallying career started in his native Ireland before taking in events in mainland UK and further afield; he was a regular in Rallye Sunseeker in southern England from 2000 until 2007, when he switched his focus to rallycross. He was British Champion in 2007, has been a regular title-contender in recent years, finishing second in 2016, ‘20 & ’21, and has also finished on the podium in the European Rallycross Championship and achieved semi-final starts in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

At 18 years of age, his son Patrick won seven rounds last year on his way to becoming the youngest-ever British Rallycross Champion; having swapped last year’s Ford Fiesta for a Hansen Motorsport-built Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar, he has already started his title defence with back-to-back victories in the season-opening double-header at the Home of Rallycross’ Lydden Hill in April.

Albatec Racing Team Principal Scott’s visit is his fifth and he returns with co-driver and fellow Scot Laura Connell, who shared his best result so far, third overall and FIA R5 class winners in 2019 in the Fiesta R5 now driven by the island’s Josh Read. Scott and Connell finished sixth in Anglesey on Sunday, his first outing of the season, after which he said: “Ollie and I have known each other a long time through rallycross. We’ve been fierce competitors over the years and worked together a few times, but over the last winter we have worked a lot closer with Ollie driving our i20 R5 in rallies in the UK, where I think he has come on a lot in the car. I’ve been trying to get Ollie to come out to Rally Barbados for a couple of years, and it will be special for Albatec to run him, Hayden and myself in one of my favourite events in the world. I’m sure Ollie and I especially will be very keen to beat each other, which only adds to the close rivalry that I already have with Kevin Procter, who introduced me to Rally Barbados in the first place.”

Sol Rally Barbados (June 9-11) is a tarmac rally, with around 20 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport, Works & Water Resources; the King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ (June 4), runs under a similar arrangement and features four timed runs on a roughly four-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for Sol RB23.


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