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Stockdale Returns For Record Ninth Visit
Overseas interest boosts confidence in Sol Rally Barbados 2009

Today's announcement from the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) that Martin Stockdale is among the early overseas entries confirmed for Sol Rally Barbados 2009 will bring cheer to thousands of the island's motor sport enthusiasts; his record ninth consecutive appearance is also further evidence of continued confidence in the country's premier motor sport event, despite the challenging economic times.

On his first visit in 2001, the popular Englishman finished 20th overall and second in Modified Open in a BMW M3, his flamboyant driving style earning him the nickname 'Mad-dale' among local fans; since then, in a series of increasingly more powerful cars - last year's M3 GTR boasted 400 horsepower from its 4.9-litre engine - he has won an impressive array of trophies, including three for Group wins, once as the highest-placed overseas crew.

His run of success came to an end last year, however, with retirement on Saturday morning following a serious hand injury suffered when the car dropped off its jacks during service; prompt action by the organisers resulted in urgent medical attention, however, and everyone was delighted to see him at the Monday evening Prizegiving at The Boatyard, supported by wife Glenis and his team.

In an emotional moment, SuperModified 11 winners Jonathan Still and Heath Hazell, who have become close friends with the British crew, dedicated their Group win to the injured ace, and presented Stockdale and co-driver Mark Swallow with their trophies.

The experience has not deterred him, however. Over the weekend, Stockdale said: "It would take more than a little accident to stop me coming back! Everything has healed well, although the index finger is not responding in the manner intended, as I can't curl it to make a fist. I've been out driving on a track day in the old car, though, and twiddling the tiller wasn't a problem.

"There are some positives to come out of this. The new car will be fitted with proper sill mounted stands, and everyone is more aware of how easily these things can happen, despite having done it thousands of times before. More haste, less speed, as they say."

Of the "new car" mentioned, Stockdale was tight-lipped: "Suffice to say I will be returning with a new car; it is currently a bare bodyshell and the final spec is not fully decided." A remark like that, coming from someone whose rally cars in the last 30 years have also included a Group B Opel Ascona i200 and a four-door Vauxhall Carlton with a 3-litre Opel Monza engine, will certainly arouse the interest of local fans.

Following last week's confirmation of an entry for Steve Perez, adding Stockdale to the list further boosts confidence in the event. Sol Rally Barbados Executive Committee Chairman Barry Gale notes: "We had been uncertain of what support we could expect from our overseas competitors in these difficult times, so hearing so early from some of our regular visitors is very encouraging, both for the Club and for those local sponsors whose support is so important to us. "Initially, we anticipated a lower entry level, but I am pleased to report that our fears appear so far to have been exaggerated; in particular, from a European perspective, it seems that many of those cutting back on their motor sport are choosing to compete on a few 'must-do' events . . . and Sol Rally Barbados is apparently one of the chosen few."

Bird's 'retirement' continues with rally win

Paul Bird and Ian Windress won the Cartersport Jack Frost Stages Rally in Northern England yesterday (January 18) in the Vent-Axia/ Kick Energy Subaru Impreza WRC S9 in which they finished second on Sol Rally Barbados 2008; they beat the winners from the previous two years, Chris Wise and Tracey Taylor-West, in the MG Metro 6R4 formerly campaigned in Barbados by Roger Mayers.

This is further evidence that talk of 'Birdy's retirement following his visit to the island was premature. As Steve Perez said last week: "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." The two British businessmen will first face one another in February at Rallye Sunseeker, opening round of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship based in Bournemouth, on England's south coast.

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. Associate sponsors include the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association.