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Perez Confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2009
BHTA supports Rally Club's

Steve Perez is the first confirmed European entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2009... and the 2004 UK National Rally Champion is a man on a mission. After missing a top-three slot for the third year in a row in 2008, he said: "We'll just have to come back and by-pass the podium - I'm going all out to win!"

Although his first visit ended in disaster when his ex-Hannu Mikkola Audi Quattro Sport suffered accident damage in Rally Barbados 2004, Perez soon developed a fondness for Barbados and its people. Like many introduced to the island through rallying, he is now a regular visitor and returned home on Saturday after his annual New Year holiday, enjoyed with a large family group in an exclusive West Coast location.

Before he left, he confirmed that he will be back with his Kick Energy Ford Focus WRC, co-driven for the first time in Barbados by Welshman Paul Spooner, with whom he finished 19th in the final round of the 2008 World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, in December. Of that result, he noted: "To just get to the finish was a major achievement, given it was one of the toughest rallies I have ever done. The ice, snow and fog made the going treacherous, so I was doubly delighted to achieve a top 20 finish on a World Championship event with very few top-name retirements."

Since 2006, a hat-trick of fourth places in Rally Barbados - highest-placed European finisher twice - means he has unfinished business: "I'm certainly not coming to defend fourth place, but I think the job's going to be even harder this year. There's the two Focus WRCs from Jamaica with Gary Gregg and Jeff Panton, and the Imprezas of Paul Bourne and Roger Skeete - they've all won the rally before, so I've got my work cut out.

"And then my old mate Paul Bird - he said he was retiring after Barbados last year . . . no such luck; the last time I spoke to him, he said he's coming back. Even if I don't win, I've still got to make sure I finish in front of 'Birdy' this time . . . and I won't be lending him any of my scrubbed-in tyres this year, either, he can bring his own!"

And the information on Bird's return from retirement is right on the money; he drove his Vent-Axia/Kick Energy Subaru Impreza WRC S9 for the first time since May two weeks ago in the Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally, a British single-venue tarmac event at the Croft motor racing circuit in North Yorkshire; after a few early dramas - he said "I'd forgotten what half the switches did" - he set some good times in the afternoon, finishing second to another crew popular with Bajan fans, Kevin Procter and Dave Bellerby in the Procters Coaches Impreza S7.

BHTA confirmed as Sol RB09 Associate Sponsor

The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association has been confirmed as an Associate Sponsor of Sol Rally Barbados 2009, its increased commitment a further recognition of the event's value as an integral part of the island's sports-tourism product.

Having assisted in recent years through the provision of accommodation, particularly for overseas media, the BHTA has stepped up its involvement with a significant cash injection. BHTA Executive Vice-President Sue Springer said: "Why would the BHTA not support such an awesome event? It is a win-win situation and we look forward to 2009 with bated breath to see who will take the crown.

"Over the past eight years, 200 overseas competitors have competed in the Barbados Rally Club's event, many of whom have become repeat visitors at other times of the year. In 2008, the 30 overseas crews clocked up around 4000 bed nights during May, which is known to be one of our slower months in the industry. This event also gives us some amazing international media coverage, the like of which we could never begin to pay for - with reports broadcast to 16 million homes in 40 countries across Europe in 2008, what can match that in exposure for Barbados?

"The financial benefits are also significant: the spend from overseas visitors last year was around Bds $1.5m just from hotels, flights and restaurants, without particular requirements like their specialised fuel, while thousands of local fans bring revenue to vendors, mini-marts and rum shops, all of whom benefit from this National Event."

BRC Chairman Mark Hamilton added: "The BHTA's additional commitment to Sol Rally Barbados this year signals once again an acknowledgement of the contribution that the event is making to our sports-tourism product and the local economy as a whole at a time when the world economic situation will place additional pressure on small island states. The Barbados Rally Club is very conscious of the need to make our event more attractive than ever to international participants under these circumstances and this additional support will be used exclusively for that purpose."

Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 30/31) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 23) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; title sponsor is the Sol Group, the Caribbean's largest independent oil company, and both events are rounds of the Virgin Atlantic BRC RallySport Championship.