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Ceremonial Start for Sol Rally Barbados
Final preparations for Armstrong's British debut near completion

The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is once again raising the bar of its blue riband event, Sol Rally Barbados, with the introduction for 2009 of the Ceremonial Start at Simpson Motors on the evening of Friday, May 29. This addition to the schedule reflects the structure of events in the World Rally Championship and will be welcomed by the island's thousands of motor sport fans.

Final details of the evening's programme are yet to be confirmed, but the outline plan provides the best chance yet for fans to mingle with competitors in the Caribbean's biggest annual international motor sport event, and hear their thoughts in the final hours before competition begins.

A purpose-built start ramp will be sited in the grounds of Simpson Motors at Warrens, St Michael; crews will pass over the ramp in start number order and stop briefly for interviews. The evening will also offer a better environment in which the media can meet and interview crews than the bustle of the last-minute preparations on Saturday morning.

Sol Rally Barbados chairman Barry Gale says: "The Ceremonial Start is a concept we have been considering for some time, based on my own experiences in Corona Rally Mexico back in 2002 - the atmosphere generated by spectators and drivers before they set off into the thick of competition is electric, and makes for a great start to the rally.

"Simpson Motors has been fantastic as usual - one of our long- standing sponsors, the company never fails to support the event significantly. In addition, Crane & Equipment, another long-time friend of the club, has come up with a great design for a ramp for us to show off the cars as they 'start' Sol Rally Barbados 2009.

"We hope, as with some of our other planned changes for 2009, that spectators will appreciate the new ideas, while continuing to enjoy all that has made our premier event popular over its lifetime. It is this mix of the familiar and the new that has drawn 20,000 locals and hundreds of overseas guests to the rally every year."

Final preparations for Armstrong's British debut near completion

Triple Barbados Rally Club Group Champion Neil Armstrong's preparations for Rallye Sunseeker (February 27/28), based in the English south coast resort of Bournemouth, are nearly complete, with the car's livery promoting Sol Rally Barbados now confirmed and the seeded entry list published on the official web site ( on Friday.

The 70-strong entry for the opening round of the UK's Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship includes 13 Group N crews, many contesting the 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, with a brand new Lancer Evolution X RS on offer for the Champion; Armstrong and Rally Barbados 2005 winning co-driver Max Ferri have been seeded 10th of the 13 in their MSR Motorsport Evo VIII, starting at number 35 overall, and will face an international cast of crews from England, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and Wales.

At least Armstrong and Ferri will be among friends - last year's Sol Rally Barbados Group N-winning crew of Ryan Champion and Craig Thorley will be both be in Bournemouth, Champion working on the management team for Armstrong, while Thorley will be co-driving for Charlie Payne, whose Lancer Evo WRC is also run by MSR. In addition, a number of UK-based Bajan enthusiasts are already making plans to drive down and support.

Leading Group N seeds include last year's Evo Challenge runner-up Nik Elsmore and third-placed Daniel Barry, winner of the PIAA Junior Award for under 25-year olds: both will arrive in Bournemouth in good spirits, having finished first and second overall on the tricky, snow- bound Wyedean Forest Rally two weeks ago in their Evo IXs.

Along with Welshman Simon Hughes (Evo IX), the opposition will include Andreas Magnusson (Evo IX) and Hans-Erik Weng (Evo X), who finished first and second in the inaugural year of the Swedish Evo Challenge last year, and two of last year's front-runners in the Irish Evo Challenge, Owen Murphy (Evo IX) and Alan Carmichael (Evo IX).

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.