Powell and Fennell finish second in NACAM opener
Sol Rally Barbados regulars John Powell and Mike Fennell Jnr overcame extreme odds â€“ they didnâ€™t even have a rally car three hours before the start – to finish second in Puebla, Mexico, last weekend (April 20/21) in Rally Canadas, round one of the FIA NACAM Rally Championship.
For Powell, who represents his adopted homeland Trinidad & Tobago, it continues a fine vein of form, following victories in Jamaica last December and Trinidad in March in his Subaru Impreza WRC S14; fellow-Jamaican Fennell finished second in Trinidad, with regular driver Jeff Panton (Ford Focus WRC06).
For the NACAM events – there are five more rounds – Powell is driving a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, run by Dom Buckley Motorsport (DBM) from the UK, with Jamaicaâ€™s Peter Clarke bringing experience of the championship, in which few English-speaking Caribbean crews compete, and the language to his role as team manager.
After walking through the Friday night Ceremonial Start with the Evo not yet released by Customs, Powell and Fennell had to wait until nearly 5.00am for it to arrive; the DBM crew gave it a quick check, while another regular UK visitor, Phil Marks, mapped the engine. Powell had his work cut out, facing the Evo IX of Mexicoâ€™s Ricardo Trivino, who has not only been in the World Rally Championship since 2002, but was also on home ground, so better prepared for temperature, humidity and altitude.
The Caribbean crewâ€™s luck went from bad to worse, with no working intercom nearly all day â€“ they relied on hand signals – no lunchtime service as the crew was delayed, then a fan failure, causing the engine to overheat. After six of the seven stages, however, they were reunited with service crew and intercom.
At nearly 29 kilometres, the final stage was easily the longest, around one-fifth of the distance . . . with everything working, Powell beat the local ace by 23 seconds to secure second place. Trivino won in 1h 28m 55.6s, with Powell 1m 11.1s behind.
Powell said: “Stage 7 proved that Ricardo is catchable, and we held back since he was on his home turf. His lines were perfect and you couldn’t help but simply follow them. It will be interesting to see how things turn out on neutral ground.”
Sol Rally Barbados and Shell V-Power King of the Hill are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB12 is the 23rd running of the Clubâ€™s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the fifth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbeanâ€™s largest independent oil company.