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Rally Champions Head For Caribbean Showdown
Near-capacity entry for Sol Rally Barbados

Rally Champions from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are making their final preparations to fly to the 166-square-mile Caribbean island of Barbados, where they will compete in the region's biggest annual international motor sport event, Sol Rally Barbados, over the weekend of May 31/June 1.

The provisional entry list published today (May 12) by the organising Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is just one shy of the event's cap of 90 entries; the 89 crews include seven from around the region and 23 from Europe. Today's list is published by Group in alphabetical order - the seeded entry list will be released following the Shell V-Power King of the Hill, which runs off the Saturday before Sol Rally Barbados.

As the BRC's premier event approaches its 20th running in 2010, the long-term commitment of new sponsor The Sol Group has enabled the Club to concentrate with greater confidence on the core business of building the rally, already an event of national significance as a major contributor to the island's sports tourism product and foreign exchange earnings, into a world-class event.

And this year reflects the progress already being made, not least because the entry includes Sweden's Bjorn Waldegard, the 1979 World Rally Champion, and Ireland's Kris Meeke, who was a title-contender in the Junior World Rally Championship from 2004 to 2006. Add in past or present Champion drivers from Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and from further afield in England, Ireland and Scotland, and all the ingredients are in place for a superb contest.

With an entry of 27 four-wheel-drive cars - a record number, surpassing the 24 which started Rally Barbados 2004 - the island's motor sport fans can expect a real motor sport feast. While Waldegard will be enjoying himself in the historic class in a Porsche 911 owned by regular British visitor Steve Perez, Meeke will be at the sharp end.

Highest group in the local classifications is Modified 8-WRC (World Cars, or those modified beyond Group A), which has attracted a record entry of 13 cars - Meeke is fulfilling an ambition by driving a Toyota Corolla WRC, an ex-Didier Auriol car owned by Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell, who drove it to second in Rally Barbados 2007. Meeke's opposition includes reigning BRC Rally Champion and double Rally Barbados winner Paul Bourne (Subaru Impreza S9), 10-times winner of the BRC's blue riband event Roger Skeete (Ford Escort WRC) and 1999 winner Trevor Manning (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII).

Apart from former Trinidad champion Powell (now in an Impreza S9), the regional entry includes multiple Jamaican champion Gary Gregg, winner in 2006 with his ex-Carlos Sainz Ford Focus WRC01, while the British contingent includes Perez (fourth for the past two years in his Focus WRC05) and Paul Bird (Impreza WRC S9) - both are former National Champions - and sixth-time visitor Kevin Procter, whose sixth different mount for the event is an Impreza S7.

The interest from overseas competitors is not solely concentrated on overall victory - there is at least one regional or European crew in every group except Modified 6, so national pride will be at stake right through the field.

Chairman of the Sol Rally Barbados organising committee Barry Gale says: "We are delighted with the quality of the entry and hope that we will once again be able to say 'this was the best Rally Barbados yet'. We will be extending a warm welcome to all of our overseas visitors, but there will still be some intense competition on the stages. In each Group, may the best man - or woman - win!"

Sol Rally Barbados 2008 headline statistics: + 89 crews entered
+ drivers or co-drivers from 12 nations, including Barbados
+ 27 four-wheel-drive cars
+ 43 drivers or co-drivers from Europe
+ 17 drivers or co-drivers from around the region
+ 1 female driver, 13 female co-drivers
+ cars from 17 manufacturers, Toyota the best-represented with 18