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Meek to Defend Sol Rally Barbados Title
Sponsor lauds

Just hours before the entry deadline for Sol Rally Barbados 2009 last Friday (May 1), a deal was struck for Kris Meeke to return and defend the title. The Ulsterman heads an oversubscribed entry list, which disproves predictions that the worldwide recession would adversely affect the Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport event.

Not only is the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) maximum of 90 entries exceeded, but quantity is matched by unprecedented quality of both man and machine, the overseas entry a further endorsement of the attraction of the island's sports tourism product; the full provisional entry list will be published on Monday, May 11.

This success and growth has helped fuel the partnership between the BRC and title sponsor Sol, the region's largest independent oil company, as confirmed at a Media Conference today (May 6) at the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, which will be Rally HQ for the forthcoming event. Sol's regional manager OECS, Roger Bryan, stated: "The success of last year's sponsorship has not been assessed only by the thousands of fans who lined the stages, or by the fantastic coverage offered by local and international media, but also through the resolute buy-in from Government and other supporting agencies on the island."

Confirmation of Meeke's participation lays to rest rumours that have circulated for weeks. Since winning last year in a Toyota Corolla World Rally Car, Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle were signed by Peugeot UK/Kronos Racing to contest the Intercontinental Rally Challenge; after crashing out of the opening round, the Monte Carlo Rally, they won in Brazil in March, to lie joint second in the standings.

Their next event is this weekend (May 7-9) in the Portuguese Azores, after which they will start preparations for Sol RB09, for which they are entered in a Subaru Impreza WRC S9, sponsored by Digicel, Red Bull and ARMAG. Meeke has happy memories of Imprezas - he claimed his first overall rally win in one in Scotland in 2001, then finished ninth on his WRC debut on Wales Rally GB 2005 in what Autosport magazine described as "quite possibly the drive of his career", after battling for the honour of finishing 'top Brit' with his mentor Colin McRae in a Skoda Fabia and Mark Higgins in a Ford Focus.

Confirmation of Meeke's entry brings to nine the number of ex- factory World Cars entered, and boosts the number of potential winners; Paul Bird, who finished second to Meeke last year, fellow- Brits Steve Perez and Kevin Procter and Jamaica's Jeffrey Panton are all capable of giving the island's 'Big Four' something to think about, although Skeete, Paul Bourne, Roger Hill and Trevor Manning are determined to keep the trophy at home and repay the support of more than 20,000 local fans.

Sol's Roger Bryan looks forward to the contest: "Sol recognizes the value of its contribution to the development of motor sport, and to Barbados as a whole; throughout the period around Sol Rally Barbados, the entire landscape is transformed by a wave of 'rally consciousness' . . . and we love that!"

Barbados Rally Club Vice-chairman Geoffrey Noel added: "In the second year of our agreement with Sol, which is the largest single sponsorship deal in the history of the Club, I am incredibly pleased with the support, especially from our overseas visitors, when everyone worldwide is facing economic problems. Sol's commitment has also strengthened our case when dealing with partners such as the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and the Barbados Tourism Authority, which helps the Club towards its aim of sustainable sports tourism and a meaningful contribution to the economy of 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. Marketing partners are Automotive Art, Banks Holdings, DaCosta Mannings Auto Centre, Digicel, McEnearney Quality, Red Bull and Simpson Motors; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line, Stoute's Car Rental and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are ARMAG, Caribbean Airlines, Crane & Equipments, Merville Lynch Productions, Little Switzerland and Shelbury Construction.

Sol Rally Barbados

What's new for 2009

Shell V-Power King of the Hill: both the day and venue for this vital 'shakedown' the previous weekend have been changed. From Saturday last year, the event has been switched to Sunday (May 24), while the venue will be the popular Stewart's Hill stage in St Philip, which is not included in Sol Rally Barbados. Service will be based at the Windward Cricket Club, which will also be the venue for the evening Prizegiving.

Ceremonial Start: the Ceremonial Start at Simpson Motors on Friday, May 29, reflects the format of the World Rally Championship and will provide the best chance yet for fans to mingle with competitors in the final hours before the action. There will be a brief formal opening, including an official welcome for overseas visitors from the Minister of Transport the Rt Hon John Boyce, after which each crew will pass over the purpose-built start ramp in order of seeding and stop for interviews and photo opportunities. The evening also offers a better environment for the media to meet crews than the bustle of last-minute preparations on Saturday morning.

Overseas competitor comfort zone 1: two of this year's innovations are aimed directly at supporting overseas visitors. Divi Southwinds Beach Resort in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, is the designated Rally HQ, with a Rally Office open from Monday, May 18, until the day after the last overseas competitors leave. A large number of European teams and media attendees are staying at the hotel, which is also the venue for the Media Conference, Briefing Meeting and Welcome Party.

Overseas competitor comfort zone 2: in addition, a central workshop has been established to accommodate crews which do not already enjoy a working relationship with friends or businesses in the island. With support from McEnearney Quality, which has hosted many crews in its Wildey premises, this nearby stand-alone facility will provide a secure environment for the storage of cars, access to knowledgeable local engineers and mechanics, and to infrastructure that it is impossible, particularly for smaller teams, to replicate when competing overseas. As it is not a working area for the dealership, it will be easy for teams to come and go during the day, which means it can also be used as a gathering point. MQI will continue to provide support from its main facility, should any more major work be required, such as collision repair.

On-line entries: for the first time, the exclusive method of entering Rally Barbados was through the on-line entry form on the official web site ( After a major winter upgrade, the web site offered an enhanced on-line entry and payment system, plus download of documentation, alongside its role as an key element of the marketing strategy. Each competitor has received an automatic confirmation of receipt of the entry, while an alert was sent to members of the Sol RB09 Executive Committee, to enable them promptly to follow up any issues arising.