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Sol Rally Barbados Q & A: Toni Gardemeister
Twenty-five newcomers at Simpson Motors Scrutineering

Confirmation this week that double European Rally Champion, France's Simon Jean-Joseph, will contest Sol Rally Barbados 2015 (May 29-31) brings to the 25th Anniversary running of the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) premier event a second former WRC competitor who is still very much involved in the sport at the highest level.

As gravel crew for double World Rally Champion and countryman Sebastien Ogier in both of his WRC title-winning campaigns, Jean-Joseph has played a role in Volkswagen Motorsport's rapid rise on the WRC landscape . . . a commitment he shares with Toni Gardemeister, who will campaign the Red Bull Global Rallycross/Simpson Motors/Bushy Park Barbados Suzuki SX4 WRC in Barbados, with co-driver Timo Alanne.

While the Frenchman will also compete in this weekend's LIME King of the Hill, however, the Finn will miss the 'shakedown event', as he will not arrive in the island until Monday evening, straight from Portugal, where he is helping his countryman Jari-Matti Latvalla, team-mate to Ogier. He found time in his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his forthcoming trip:

Q: Have you and Timo ever been driver and co-driver before?
TG: "I have have known Timo more than 15 years, but this is first time that we will sit in the same rally car."

Q: Are you looking forward to getting back into an SX4 again?
TG: "Definitely! First of all, it's nice to be back behind the steering wheel and also nice to be back in the SX4. It was a pity that the Suzuki period in the World Rally Championship was only one year long. I have some good memories from that time."

Q: Have you ever been on holiday in this part of the world?
TG: "I have visited around 70 to 80 different countries around the world, but no, I have never been there . . . so this will be new experience for me. I am looking forward to it!"

Q: Since you retired from the WRC and ERC, you've done a lot of rally raid type events, in countries like Russia, where bad weather would have been normal. Are you looking forward to a rally in the sun?
TG: "Driving in good weather is always nice and it's enjoyable because, normally, you know which grip level is coming after every corner. Although I have heard that the stage surface in Barbados is quite slippery. We will see more when we get there."

Q: Are you fully recovered from your rally raid accident?
TG: "I've recovered well. OK, my back will never be the exact same as before. It will always be more stiff, and it's not bending so well. But it's physically OK. And, sure I put on some weight after the accident, because I was lying on a bed for a few months. After that, not having any real targets, why would I need to be super-fit?"

Q: Did you hear of Rally Barbados before this invitation?
TG: "Actually, yes. I know that Kris Meeke was there and won, and I have looked at some videos from there. There are some nice videos of BMW action!"

Q: You are flying straight from Portugal, where the fifth WRC round is the same weekend as LIME KotH. Are you there just watching, or are you working with one of the teams?
TG: "I'm helping Jari-Matti Latvala and Volkswagen Motorsport there. Also, I'm working a little with a new young Finnish talent, Teemu Suninen."

Twenty-five newcomers at Simpson Motors Scrutineering

Twenty-five rally cars that are new to Barbados will be seen for the first time at Simpson Motors Scrutineering on Saturday (May 23). A huge turn-out is anticipated as island fans head to the family-friendly function at the Warrens, St Michael, dealership for their first chance to view the international newcomers.

Competition cars will start arriving to a pre-arranged schedule from 12.30pm. The scrutineers carry out their work in a secure area, after which all crews are mandated to remain on site between 3.30pm and 6.00pm, during which time driver interviews and other promotional activities will take place.

Island enthusiasts will find much to interest them, particularly among the record-breaking overseas entry of 44 cars, half of which are newcomers to the event. Among these, crowd favourite, England's Martin 'Mad-dale' Stockdale – back for his 15th consecutive year - has a brand new SuperModified 12 BMW 1M Coupe, which arrived just days ago, while fans of the Ford Escort MkII will be challenged to know where to look.

The arrival of Simon Mauger, unbeaten in UK events by any other MkII, has piqued interest in the 2wd battle to come in Sol RB15, as social media discussions build up to the coming struggle. Add in some fine Historic examples, such as those of Warren Philliskirk and Chris Shooter, and there will be plenty for the fans to enjoy.

Sol Rally Barbados (May 29-31) and LIME King of the Hill (May 24) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 55th Anniversary in 2012; title sponsors are the Sol Group and LIME. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, Automotive Art and Banks; official partners are Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Port Inc, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Geest Line, the Tourism Development Corporation and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Chefette, Glacial Pure, Little Switzerland, 104 The Beat, Redline Fuels, REIS, Stoute's Car Rental, Up Beat Wholesale and West Indies Rum Distillery.