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Hill Wins Automotive Art Shakedown Stages
Fightback from Skeete one of many highlights

The final countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2009 will be busier than anticipated for some of the island's rally teams following yesterday's (May 3) Automotive Art Shakedown Stages; a high rate of attrition left just 27 crews classified as overall finishers from the 47 that started the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) 10-stage tarmac event.

After an impressively clean drive over the demanding Canefield, Pickerings and Turners Hall stages in the north of the island, Roger Hill and Graham Gittens claimed victory by 12.41 seconds in the Esso/ Nassco/Motormac Toyota Corolla WRC; in doing so, Hill also took the lead in the Virgin Atlantic BRC Driver's Championship from Paul Bourne (Subaru Impreza WRC S9), who retired after crashing out on the opening stage of the day.

Hill was fastest on that first Canefield test, just over four seconds ahead of a determined Neil Armstrong (Simpson Motors/Hankook/ Shell V-Power/Gunk Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), with the flying Mazda 3 of Nicholas Gill third, another 1.5secs adrift. Just over half-a- second covered the next three cars, Barry Gale's Evo VI, Ian Warren's Suzuki Swift (fastest two-wheel-drive) and the Group N-leading Evo IX of Geoff Noel.

A flat tyre cost Roger Skeete (Michelin/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre/Warrens Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S9) exactly 30 seconds to Hill, placing him 28th after stage one; for the massive spectator turn-out, however, this was good news, as it set the stage for a fight-back for the rest of the day, starting on stage two, where Skeete gained his first three seconds, leaping to 14th overall.

After suffering with on-board computer dramas early on, Trevor Manning (Ford Escort WRC) was fastest on the second run up Canefield; Hill was second fastest, snatching back the three seconds Skeete had gained on the previous stage, so a battle was clearly on the cards.

Skeete topped the time sheets on the final two stages before lunch, with Manning and Hill second fastest on stages four and five respectively; Armstrong had maintained his pace, to lie second overall, 15secs behind Hill, with Gale now third, another 6secs behind and two ahead of fourth-placed Skeete.

Warren and Brett Clarke (Evo VI) now completed the top six, ahead of Noel and Cliff Roett (Toyota Starlet), who had been in the top 10 a couple of times; behind him, less than 4secs covered the three leading cars in SuperModified 11, early front-runner Gill having slipped down to 10th overall, splitting the battling Jonathan Still (BMW M3) and newcomer to the Group Mark Hamilton (Ford Escort MkII).

Skeete continued his charge after the lunch halt, with a perfect hand of four fastest times (the penultimate stage was cancelled, following a minor timing malfunction), but it was simply not enough; on all but the final stage of the day, when Manning was just half-a- second shy of Skeete, Hill was second fastest, maintaining his advantage.

Armstrong was promoted to third by lose of play, Gale suffering from a hose detaching itself intermittently during the afternoon - he and Cherie Edghill won the trophies as highest-placed crew including a female; Warren finished fifth and highest-placed two-wheel-drive, with a delighted Roett sixth - he had enjoyed an excellent afternoon, beating Warren on two of the four stages.

Clarke, Noel, Still and Hamilton completed the top 10, after Gill's Mazda broke a driveshaft in stage eight, dropping out of overall contention. Other notable retirements included Josh Read, who had propelled the Automotive Art Starlet to 11th overall on the opening stage, only to suffer gearbox failure on the very next test.

Despite the record number of starters for a National tarmac event in recent years, and an enormous spectator attendance, there were no major delays, the final stage of the day starting just four minutes late. Sol Rally Barbados Chairman Barry Gale said: "As I said before the event, it was as important as a shakedown for our many volunteers as it was for the competitors, and I think they came through with flying colours. Our stage commanders and their crews ran the event very smoothly, the results system was being updated regularly . . . speaking as a competitor this weekend, I think everyone did a fantastic job. Now for Sol Rally Barbados!"

Sol Rally Barbados 2009 (May 29-31) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 24) 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 and Class Championships. Associate sponsors include the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association.

Automotive Art Shakedown Stages - Sunday, May 3
Results - overall

1st Roger Hill/Graham Gittens (M8-WRC Esso/Nassco/Motormac Toyota
Corolla WRC), 19m 14.10s
2nd Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (M8-WRC Michelin/Da Costa Mannings
Auto Centre/Warrens Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S9), 19m 26.51s
3rd Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (M8-A Simpson Motors/Hankook/Shell V-
Power/Gunk Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), 19m 45.54s
4th Barry Gale/Cherie Edghill (M8-WRC VP Racing/Autolink/Bella Beauty
Supply/ProPac Dog Food Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), 20m 03.82s
5th Ian Warren/Robert Warren (SM10 Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power
Suzuki Swift), 20m 04.21s
6th Cliff Roett/Orry Hunte (SM10 Carters & Co/Nassco/Lucky Horseshoe/
Roett's Garage Toyota Starlet), 20m 18.06s
7th Brett Clarke/Garry Clarke (M8-WRC Simpson Motors Mitsubishi
Lancer Evo VI), 20m 21.22s
8th Geoffrey Noel/Kreigg Yearwood (P4 Globe Finance/DeWalt Tools/
Essco/Sunbeach/Automotive Art Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 20m 26.43s
9th Jonathan Still/Heath Hazell (SM11 Hitachi Power Tools/Ocean Spray/
Philips Lighting/Crane & Equipments BMW M3), 20m 44.12s
10th Mark Hamilton/Clive Howell (SM11 PowerMaster Batteries/
Automotive Art/MQI/Consolidated Finance Ford Escort MkII), 20m 55.57s
Modified 8-WRC 1st Hill/Gittens; 2nd Skeete/Venezia; 3rd Gale/Edghill
M8-A 1st Armstrong/Ward; 2nd Kirk Watkins/Ryan Corbin (Abacus
Builders/Hankook Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V), 21m 23.08s
Production 4 1st Noel/Yearwood; 2nd Harold Morley/Geoff Goddard
(Subaru Impreza N14), 21m 06.76s; 3rd David Williams/Kristian
Yearwood (Consolidated Finance/MQI Collision Repair Centre/Mix 96.9FM/
Chelsea Car Rentals/Castrol Subaru Impreza WRX STi), 21m 46.90s; etc
SuperModified 11 1st Still/Hazell; 2nd Hamilton Howell; 3rd Nicholas
Gill/Sue Rogers (Mazda 3), 22m 00.20s; etc
SM10 1st Warren/Warren; 2nd Roett/Hunte; 3rd Rhett Watson/Logan
Watson (The Unknown Entity/MQI Collision Repair Centre/Toshiba/Office
Solutions & Supplies/Corbz Workz Ford Escort MkI), 22m 00.42s; etc
SM9 1st James Betts/Josh Delmas (All Terrain Plus/Black Bess/Makita/
Champion Auto/Kendal Sporting/Yamaha Opel Corsa), 21m 07.64s; 2nd
Stuart White/Jason O'Neil (3W's/Flyin' Fish/Aqua Pur Toyota Starlet),
23m 03.03s; 3rd Karl Waterman/Matthew Staffner (3W's/Flyin' Fish/Aqua
Pur Toyota Starlet), 23m 23.28s; etc
M7 1st Adrian Linton/Jackie Linton (Ravensden/Morris Straker
Construction/Garbage Gobbler/Crane & Equipment Vauxhall Astra GSi),
21m 16.86s; 2nd Greg Cozier/Antonio Da Silva (Hyundai Trucks/Citgo
Oils Ford Escort RS2000), 22m 12.10s; 3rd Freddie Gale/Kyle Proverbs
(Gale's Hatcheries/Nassco/VP Racing Toyota Corolla RunX), 22m 17.59s;
M6 1st Edward Corbin/Rodney Clarke (Automotive Art/Klark-Odio/Corbins
Garage/JVM Signage Daihatsu Charmant), 21m 28.40s; 2nd Danny Williams/
Reuben Nelson (Chris's Workshop/Sunbury Plantation House/Barbados
Paragliding Association Ford Fiesta), 23m 16.76s; 3rd Shareef Walcott/
Juan Watts (Melwani's/Auto Solutions/Klark-Odio/Spoons Customs
Brokers & Trucking Toyota Corolla), 24m 43.12s
M5 1st Sean Cox/Adam Cox (Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift), 30m 24.47s
P3 1st Sean T Field/Trai Field (AM Realty/Ackee Tree/Field Insurance
Brokers/Landscapes in Harmony Peugeot 306), 27m 02.12s
P2 1st Fabien Clarke/Pierre Lashley (Barbados Business Listings/RCA
Tours/Bovell Auto Repair Suzuki Ignis Sport), 28m 51.85s

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