SOL RALLY BARBADOS 2012 ENTRY HAT-TRICK RECORD
For the third straight year, the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, Sol Rally Barbados, has attracted a record entry. Between October and the closing date a week ago (May 14), 121 entries were posted on-line at the event’s official web site of which 108 remain on the provisional entry list, published by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) during a media conference on Monday (May 21).
Title sponsor since 2008, Sol hosted the function to coincide with the official opening of its re-branded Sol Redmans service station and the start of its ‘Rally Up’ promotion: fans can win rally gear or tickets to VIP Hospitality by visiting Sol’s island-wide outlets, or by buying the official Sol RB12 programme, available from Wednesday.
Sol Rally Barbados Chairman, Barry Gale told the assembled media: “Thanks mainly to incredible international media coverage of Sol Rally Barbados 2011, including television coverage on 30 networks around the world, including ESPN, we have had phenomenal interest shown towards the 2012 edition of our pride and joy.”
Among many record figures in this year’s statistics, 63 International drivers or co-drivers are entered, of whom 26 are new to the event, and to the island. Following the European ‘Rally to Barbados’ promotional campaign run in association with the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), there has been a major upsurge of interest from Ireland, which accounts for six of the 12 first-time crews.
Gale continued: “As organisers, there is no sweeter payback for the support shown to us by the Barbados Tourism Authority, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and the TDC, than the ability to say ‘Sol Rally Barbados 2011 media reports and television coverage were accessible to 700 million people worldwide’.
“We are more than proud to play our part in promoting this beautiful rock in the Caribbean Sea, both as a tourism destination and as a place where local and International competitors can fight – equally – over the honour of victory in what has become the largest motor sport spectacle in the Caribbean.”
The region’s largest independent oil company, Sol was represented today by Barbados Country Manager, Ezra Prescod, who said: “Sol is pleased to have partnered with the BRC to grow the event over the past five years. We recognize the value it brings to the island’s sports-tourism product, particularly in these very difficult times, and are happy to contribute to its further development.”
Sol has expanded its support for motor sport with sponsorship of Roger ‘The Sheriff’ Skeete, 12 times the winner of the island’s premier event since 1990. Skeete is chasing a third hat-trick of wins – his previous record includes consecutive triumphs in 1990-92 and 2000-02 – and his recent victory in the Valvoline Shakedown Stages is a good omen.
In this season’s local events, overall wins have been shared equally between Skeete, 2003 and ’07 RB winner Paul ‘Surfer’ Bourne (Ford Focus WRC07) and Sean Gill (Suzuki SX4 WRC). From the wider Caribbean come Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell (Impreza WRC S14), who had stage wins in Barbados for the first time in the Shakedown Stages, and Jamaica’s Jeff Panton (Focus WRC06), the first overseas winner in Barbados in 1998. Add in former UK National Champions Paul Bird (Focus WRC08), Steve Perez (Focus WRC07) and Roger Duckworth (Impreza WRC) and anything might happen, while regular visitor Rob Swann could prove to be the dark horse in his UK-spec B13 Impreza.
Gale also confirmed the route for Sol RB12, which promises competitors and spectators alike an entertaining weekend; there are 22 special stages, 12 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday. While the venues in use are all familiar, the route-setters have gone to some trouble to introduce some new ‘tweaks’, which will create new challenges for competitors and something different for spectators.