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Still Chasing Hat-Trick on Sol Rally Barbados
Unlikely mix of Aston Martin, BMW and Mk II Escort

Local crowd favourite Jonathan Still is gunning for a hat-trick of wins in the island's SuperModified 11 category when Sol Rally Barbados 2009, the Caribbean's biggest annual international motor sport event, runs off on May 29-31 . . . but he faces the strongest field the class has ever attracted.

Co-driven in the Hitachi Power Tools/Ocean Spray/Philips Lighting/ Crane & Equipments BMW M3 by Heath Hazell, 'Stillo' would also like to add a third consecutive top 10 finish to the list - they were eighth in 2007, 10th last year - but that looks set to be even more of a challenge than the class win.

Not only is SM11 currently the best-subscribed of the 13 classes, with 17 of the total of 90-plus entries, but quantity is matched by quality . . . and possibly the most unlikely mix of cars assembled for any international rally in the world this year: Still's M3 is one of seven BMWs on a list that ranges from Mk II Ford Escorts to what is believed to be the first Aston Martin ever to be seen the island.

Before considering overseas entries, however, Still needs to deal with his year-round nemesis, the Mazda 3 of Nick Gill and Sue Rogers; over the past couple of Barbados Rally Club (BRC) seasons, the nip and tuck battle between these two has made SM11 the most hotly- contested class, with Still leading the way two-one in local events this year.

And they have a strong new local challenger, in BRC Chairman Mark Hamilton, with a new engine in his PowerMaster Batteries/Automotive Art/MQI/Consolidated Finance Mark II Escort; he and co-driver Clive Howell were already something of a thorn in Still's side in the car's previous SM10 spec, so a three-way local contest is on the cards.

Of the overseas entries, three stand out: Stillo's good friend, Britain's Martin Stockdale, returns to compete in Barbados for the ninth time, hoping to maintain his remarkable record of returning to Nottinghamshire each year with a trophy. This year, he and co-driver Mark Swallow have a new Divi Southwinds Beach Resort/Drive-a-Matic Car Rentals-supported BMW M3 Compact to campaign and will enjoy putting behind them the memories of Sol RB08, when an injury to 'Mad- dale's hand suffered during an accident in service resulted in their early retirement.

The other potential class-winner from overs eas is Welsh rallying legend Phil Collins, co-driven in his Silverstone Tyres/Millington Engines/Great Stuff Caterers/Orchard Motorsport/Collins Engineering/ Pontilas Developments MkII by Ireland's Derek Brannigan. Formerly a world-class works driver in the 1980s, Collins is best known in recent years for his prodigious speed on British tarmac events, his Escort frequently snapping at the heels of significantly more modern World Rally Cars.

And, while the car is unlikely to be in contention for class honours, the Famoss Ltd Aston Martin Rally GT of England's Chris Moss and Stuart Ulyatt will certainly attract attention, not least for the sound of its 4.3-litre V8 engine. The only right-hand-drive example of a limited run built by Prodrive, it turned many a head in the island's capital, Bridgetown, last Friday, when it was towed from the Port to secure storage on its trailer.

No fewer than three members of the Cumberbatch family are entered in BMWs - father St Elmo is co-driven in his Carib Supply/F Taylor Associates E36 by Colin Davis, now his former co-driver, son Owen, has his own Combo Auto Parts and Service M3 with co-driver Kelly-Ann Sandiford. Son Sammy is the most likely to show well, with Nicholas Yarde in the Williams Industries/Digicel/F Taylor Associates/Castrol M3.

A hat-trick of wins is possible in SuperModified 10, too, although for car, rather than driver. Dominant in M6 in recent years, Ian Warren (co-driven by brother Robert), is the new driver of the ex- Sean Gill Shell V-Power/Simpson Motors/Automotive Art Suzuki Swift; although short on seat time, 'Wee Wee' is well-placed to bring home a third win.

Based on the Automotive Art Shakedown Stages, where they beat Warren's stage times twice, Cliff Roett/Orry Hunte should present the strongest challenge, given reliability. Much work has been done on the Carters & Co/Nassco/Lucky Horseshoe/Roett's Garage/Castrol Toyota Starlet, and Roett elected to save the car and miss Sunday's (May 17) circuit race meeting at Bushy Park, despite being well-placed in his Group.

Both these classes are also long on entertainment: under that heading come Andrew Jones/Mark Thompson (Rexona V8/A P Jones Pharmacy/ Southern Surf Hotel MkII) and Rhett and Logan Watson (The Unknown Entity/McEnearney Quality Inc/Toshiba/Office Solutions & Supplies/ Corbs Workz Castrol MkI), who will have a new playmate, Ireland's Simon Michael in his / Torrens Car Breakers/Eskylane Developments MkII (with local co-driver Jonathan Foster). Add in Ralph White and Joe Troulan (Island Safari/Drive-a-Matic/Going Places Travel/Barbados Villa Services Starlet) and fireworks will follow.

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, 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; associate sponsors are ARMAG, Caribbean Airlines, Crane & Equipments, Merville Lynch Productions, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels and Shelbury Construction.