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Barbados Joins Mini's 50th Anniversary Party
Sol Rally Barbados drives Club's expansion

The 50th Anniversary of one of the motor industry's most iconic products, the Mini, will be celebrated throughout 2009 at events across the world . . . and Barbados will not be left out, thanks to a very special competition car currently being built in Europe and among the latest batch of entries received for Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 29-31).

The car is the creation of Dutch entrepreneur and motor sport preparation expert Frans Verbaas, who has competed in Rally Barbados twice before: in 2003, he drove the Opel Astra GSi Kit Car in which he had won the Dutch Rally Championship in four consecutive seasons from 1998 to 2001, retiring on Sunday morning with overheating; four years later, he finished 27th overall and fifth in Modified 7 in a newly-built Opel Astra Sport.

The bright orange Austin Mini Cooper, which is entered in SuperModified 10, is certain to attract a lot of attention - from his home in Oud Beijerland, The Netherlands, Verbaas said: "We wanted something special, so we are building a Mini. The bodyshell only came from the paint shop on Friday, so we have a lot of work to do."

And interesting work it will be, too! Verbaas has remained close to his rallying roots in the spec drawn up for his new 'pocket rocket': it will remain front-wheel-drive, but is to be powered by a 2-litre Opel Kit Car engine, with Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox, Opel Astra Group A suspension and will run on Kumho Tyres. Since his last visit to Barbados, Verbaas has enjoyed a number of class wins in the Opel, including two in Scotland, where his co- driver was Fenny Wesselink, who will be back in the island again in 2009, as co-driver for Kenny Hall. Verbaas will be returning with his third different co-driver - for 2009, his companion in the Verbaas Preparations, Koni and Team Dynamics Wheels-supported Mini will be Hester van Ovost.

First commissioned in 1957, the Mini was launched in August 1959 and, within a few months, competitors across a number of motor sport disciplines had identified its potential. The collaboration between Mini designer Alec Issigonis and race car manufacturer John Cooper resulted in the first Mini Coopers, which went on to win the world- famous Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, '65 and '67.

The 50th Anniversary of the car's launch will be celebrated worldwide, with the largest event planned being the weekend before Sol Rally Barbados - Mini United 2009 (May 22-24) will be staged at the Home of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone.

Sol Rally Barbados drives Club's expansion

The importance of Sol Rally Barbados to the future success of its organiser, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC), came under the spotlight during the Club's recent Annual General Meeting (February 20). The BRC started the 2009 season on a high note, with a healthy turn-out of members hearing a number of positive messages.

Reading retiring Treasurer Garry Clarke's last Financial Report, Chairman Mark Hamilton said: "The significance for the club of 2008 as a major development and investment in the future should not be under-estimated. The accounts clearly indicate a major expansion of the Club's operations, specifically those associated with Sol Rally Barbados."

And, despite the current worldwide financial problems, Chairman Hamilton had further good news for members in his own Annual Report: "All of the Club's major sponsors have reconfirmed their commitment which, under the present economic climate, is testimony to this Club, its members and the way we run our sport."

Hamilton also highlighted a number of on-going developments, which will further sustain the Club's future: "The planning for Sol Rally Barbados 2009 has been under way for some time and we are confident of having an even more successful year, with European interest high. The Club has also made significant strides with the event's web site, which now accommodates on-line entry and payment, download of documentation and also acts as a significant marketing tool with our promotional DVD.

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.