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New Challenges For Crews in Sol Rally Barbados
Swann tops Sunoco Shakedown Stages entry

Sol Rally Barbados 2016 will return to Bushy Park in St Philip and repeat last year's hugely-successful Friday evening start, with two special stages on the unique Race Of Champions parallel track. With only two of seven stage venues being used exactly as they were last year and the finish returning to the Vaucluse Raceway in St Thomas, competitors from home and overseas will face some exciting new challenges.

Local competitors have already given the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) an enthusiastic 'thumbs up' after senior officials outlined the plans for its premier event last Thursday (April 21). Rally Director Neil Barnard said: "We had an excellent meeting. The overall route outline was met with round of applause, with separate lengthier applause for the finish being at Vaucluse."

The Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport International, Sol RB16 will run from Friday to Sunday, June 3 to 5, with Scrutineering at Simpson Motors and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 28/29). Entries close this Friday, April 29, with approaching 100 already posted on-line at the official web site

As well as outlining the route, Thursday's meeting was organised to give competitors some insight in to the Club's approach to event planning, as Barnard explained: "Key factors taken into consideration are: compact stage venue configuration, with reasonable transits; stage variation year-on-year; safety; the impact on the wider community; proximity to service areas; road conditions and competitor enjoyment.

"We have to make a number of compromises and it is not just a simple case of choosing a set of stages. To enable the rally to run even remotely to schedule, we take into account residents and the travelling public, bus routes and timetables, local churches - particularly their service times – along with options for traffic detours and spectator access and control. All of these things are thrown into a pot, then we mix in 'how can keep the rally interesting to the spectators and the competitors?' It is essentially one huge balancing act."

Friday night's opening SuperSpecial at Bushy Park will start at 5.30pm, with the cars running in reverse order of seeding, from slowest to fastest. Barnard: "Based on last year's start, we are hopeful that both stages will be completed by 9.30pm."

After something of a shake-up for last year's 25th Anniversary event, there is a return to the more traditional format, with Saturday's stages in the north, Sunday's in the south-east. On Saturday, the Service Park will be Greenland in St Andrew and the opening stage, Haggatts to Spring Vale, one of the only two the same as in 2015, which is followed by the popular Hangman's Hill to Mount Misery stage.

After the longest transit of the day, around 30 minutes, comes the rally's longest stage, Mt Poyer to Luke Hill. Barnard again: "The first part of this stage has only been used once before and joins the familiar Pickerings stage and continues out to Luke Hill. We have paid particular attention to when?this stage was scheduled and two runs during the middle of day should minimize the inconvenience to the travelling public. We have not scheduled a third run of this stage for this reason." After service, that loop is repeated.

Following one more run each of Spring Vale and Canefield, the event's fourth venue is Four Hills to French Village, the reverse of 2015. Saturday closes with two reversed runs from Canefield down through the Lion Castle crossroads, past VRW and on to Hangman's Hill, sandwiching a final visit to Four Hills to French Village. Barnard: "We expect that the last two stages of Saturday will be in the dark for the entire field."

Sunday starts from Carrington Factory Yard, St Philip, into the second of the two identical venues from 2015, Drax Hall to Pool, while the next stage of the loop runs from Tappy Pond to Malvern, a reversed version of most of the stage used in 2015. With three Houses to Padmore Village final stage, Barnard concludes: "We have used this stage in the past, but not in this direction for some time. Sunday's three venues are extremely compact, giving stage end to stage start transits of around 10 and 15 minutes."

The rally is scheduled to finish at VRW at 3.00pm with head-to-head competition on the RallySprint track; crews will be required to take the start to be classified in Sol RB16.

Swann tops Sunoco Shakedown Stages entry

Seeded at number one for tomorrow's (Sunday) Sunoco Shakedown Stages, Britain's Rob Swann starts his final preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2016. Driving his recently-acquired Elegant Hotels/Blue Sky Luxury Subaru Impreza WRC S12B in anger for the first time, with experienced local Sean Gill in the co-driver's seat, Swann will use the event as a shakedown before Flow King of the Hill (May 29) and Sol RB16 (June 3-5).

With 10 stages offering 37.5 kilometres of competitive mileage – a little under one-third of the projected distance for Sol RB16 – Sunday's event will give crews some valuable pointers as to where they stand against the opposition.

Roger Hill is the only other starter in WRC, his Toyota Corolla WRC repaired after rolling at the season-opener in March, while last year's Group N winner Andrew Mallalieu (Impreza N10) takes on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IXs of David Coelho (T&T) and Mark Thompson. In the equally intense 2wd battle, Josh Read (Toyota Starlet), already twice an overall winner in the season's early speed events, faces Roger Mayers (WR Starlet), Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) and double BRC Champion Rhett Watson (BMW M3).

Sol Rally Barbados is a tarmac rally, with 24 special stages run on the island's intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport & Works; Sol RB16 and Flow King of the Hill are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017. Sol RB16 marks the ninth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean's largest independent oil company.