Rally Trinidad 2011: Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennel untouchable
After three days of the rally, it was Jamaica’s talented team of Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennel Jr that carried off the title of champions of Rally Trinidad 2011.
There were 31 cars slated to come under the starters orders but from the onset the grueling rally claimed it’s first victim which was at the opening ceremony at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
In the end only 11 of 31 drivers were classified as overall finishers in a rally that had it all.
With stages which more than doubled the length driven in a Barbados event and which saw the top group of World Rally Cars driving flat out for more than six minutes and some just under eight minutes there were plenty thrills and spills.
Even the wildlife turned out in their numbers to witness the action with the birds and some bees which made some of the marshall scamper for cover, with one tractor driver who was preparing the stage before having to seek refuge in the river, there was always something to see.
But none more impressive than Jamaica’s Panton who showed what driving to pace notes was all about. In his ex-Colin McRae Ford Focus he rocketed through the dusty but smooth stages and despite a few mechanical gremlins which threaten to end his reign at the front he was more than able to cruise to an easy victory over the three day event.
His total elapsed time was clocked at 1 hour, 33 minutes 39.62 seconds over the 17 of the planned 18 stages after one was canceled after lunch on the first day.
What has become a signature move with the team Panton set the massive crowd alive with his seemingly effortless donuts at the Major’s Cup in Chaguanas as Fennel waved the Jamaican flag through the co-driver’s window.
Barbados Sean Gill had to claw his way back up the standings after an overheating problem dropped him to third. He was at one stage the rally leader in his Suzuki SX4 but found himself trailing Panton, Gary Gregg and John Powell after six stages.
His fortunes changed before the end of the day when his crew seemingly rectified the problem and he was back up to speed. In the seventh stage Jamaica’s Gregg in a 2005 Ford Focus WRC saw his rally come to an end when he tore off the front bumper and sump guard, and despite finishing that stage was put out of the rally on the advice of his engineers who feared for the exposed components.
Gill moved up into third at this stage and in the final day was a man on a mission as he went about reeling in T&T Powell who was not fortunate enough to have his S12 Subaru Impreza WRC ready for the rally and was driving a Group N spec Mitsubishi Evolution X.
Gill accomplished his goal but Panton was too far ahead and he had to settle for second with a time of 1 hour 34 minutes 30.79 seconds. Powell was third and the fastest two wheel drive title went to Jamaican Bobby Marshall in a Mitsubishi Colt.