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Barbados Represents in British Curtain-Raiser
Armstrong to promote Sol Rally Barbados

Neil Armstrong, one of the rising stars of rallying in the island, is joining forces with the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) to promote its premier event, Sol Rally Barbados 2009, in the UK; the hat-trick BRC Group Champion is entered for the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship, Rallye Sunseeker 2009 (February 27/28), based in the English south coast resort of Bournemouth.

Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, prepared by North Yorkshire- based MSR Motorsport, Armstrong will represent the island against a multi-national cross-section of Group N drivers from England, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and Wales, many of whom are competing in the ninth year of the UK's Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, targetting the year-end prize of a new Evo X.

Armstrong's car will carry Sol RB09 livery, as part of the BRC's extended programme of promotion, while his management team for the event will include Ryan Champion; winner of Group N on Sol RB08, Champion has a long-standing relationship with MSR, with whom he won the Evo Challenge in 2005, so Armstrong is in good hands.

It is not only 27-year-old Armstrong's first rally in the UK, but also his first trip to Europe, although he has done his homework: "I've been checking the area out on Google Earth, and I've downloaded every bit of in-car footage I could find on YouTube, so I think I'm reasonably well-prepared. I just need to get into the car as soon as I can."

Armstrong's co-driver will be fellow-countryman Max Ferri, who currently lives in England; an accomplished co-driver, he is a former winner of Rally Barbados, having sat alongside Roger Mayers in his Ford Focus in 2005. Ferri, who has also played a pivotal role in rally timing in Barbados, is looking forward to the experience: "I've never rallied outside the island, so it's a first for me, too! I think it should be a great experience."

Rallye Sunseeker is the first of eight rounds of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship, organised by ANCRO, the Association of National Championship Rally Organisers; the biggest event of its type in the south of England, it is recognised as one of the UK's best- organised and promoted rallies and presents an ideal opportunity for the BRC to promote Sol Rally Barbados to both potential competitors and spectators, not least because two of the event's most enthusiastic supporters, Steve Perez and Paul Bird, will be on hand to help. Both are former ANCRO Champions (Perez in 2004, Bird in 2005), but neither has yet won in Bournemouth, something each is hoping to change.

The event is the only mixed-surface round of the ANCRO Championship, with two short floodlit tarmac stages in the centre of Bournemouth on Friday evening, which attract thousands of spectators; on Saturday, there are 11 stages in the nearby Ringwood and Wareham forests, plus Somerley Park, where an all-day Motorfair will feature a display of MG Metro 6R4s, marking the 25th Anniversary of the iconic Group B car's launch.

Since his debut in a front-wheel-drive Toyota Starlet in 2002, Armstrong has earned the respect of Barbados fans with his press-on driving style; he won the local Modified 6 category in Rally Barbados 2004, and was lying in the top 10, harassing some much more powerful machinery, two years later when he was removed from the event, and the Starlet severely damaged, following an accident on a road section.

The Starlet was replaced with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Armstrong's first experience in competition of four-wheel-drive; he quickly put his stamp on the production category, with Group N wins in Rally Jamaica 2006 and Rally Barbados 2007, also winning Group N in the BRC's Driver's Championship in both years.

The Evo was upgraded to Group A spec for 2008, but teething problems in the early part of the season threatened his continued success; despite that, with backing from Shell V-Power, he went on to claim a Group title for the third consecutive year, winning the Club's M8-A category with his regular local co-driver, Barry Ward.

Sol RB09 entry at world-class level!

As the one-month mark since entries for Sol RB09 opened was passed earlier this week, the total had reached 36, the same number that started Rally Ireland, first round of the World Rally Championship, last weekend. Rally Chairman Barry Gale noted: "We are making good progress, we're now up to 14 four-wheel-drives including five World Cars, most of them from overseas, and there's still a long, long way to go before entries close on May 1!"

Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 29-31) 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 Driver's Championship. Associate sponsors include the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association.