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'Clockwork Orange' Back for Sol Rally Barbados
Mini Magazine promotes island event

Having attracted the attention of Mini fans worldwide with his remarkable 50th Anniversary celebration of the iconic marque in Barbados in 2009, Dutch enthusiast Frans Verbaas will pay his fourth visit to the Caribbean island this year for Sol Rally Barbados 2010 (May 29/30), which celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the inaugural running of the Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) International All-Stage Rally.

Verbaas is among nearly 30 overseas entries already received on-line for the BRC's blue riband event and one of many whose exploits in the island have attracted international media coverage. The current issue of Britain's popular Mini Magazine carries a six-page feature on his car, the event and the island, written and illustrated by another Sol Rally Barbados regular, photojournalist Carlin Gerbich.

Under the headline 'Clockwork Orange', the article details the work involved in Verbaas creating his unique Mini, many of the internals coming from the Opel Astra GSi Kit Car in which he first competed in Barbados in 2003; although he had used that car to win the Dutch Rally Championship in four consecutive seasons from 1998 to 2001, he was forced to retire on Sunday morning in Barbados with overheating. Four years later, he finished 27th overall and fifth in Modified 7 in a newly-built Opel Astra Sport, co-driven by Mascha Corvers, who will return with him this year.

Last year's bright orange Austin Mini Cooper attract a lot of attention, as many rally fans in the island are as interested in the preparation of a car as in the way it is driven; powered by the 2-litre Opel Kit Car engine, with Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox, Opel Astra Group A suspension, it ran on Kumho Tyres mounted on 17-inch Team Dynamics wheels.

Verbaas is based in Oud Beijerland, The Netherlands, where his business has grown into a major competition car preparation outfit. When in Barbados last year, he explained: "I have always been around Minis, since my father was the local dealer. I still have more than 20 at home, including unusual ones like the pick-up and the Minivan. So, when we were looking for something special for Barbados, it needed to be a Mini."

Last year, Verbaas found very little time for testing before the car arrived in the island; travelling from Holland through the UK in late April to catch the Geest Line freighter from Portsmouth, he had even taken a brief trip along a section of London's perimeter motorway, the M25, to try and 'map' the on-board computer.

While the first weekend of competition, Shell V-Power King of the Hill, did not go well, Verbaas, co-driver Hester van Ovost and the rest of the team had already taken great comfort from the tremendous welcome the car enjoyed at Scrutineering; without doubt, the orange Mini was the car everyone wanted to see.

Things improved on the weekend of Sol Rally Barbados itself, as extra time to work on the car had brought some improvements in handling and ride height; Verbaas and van Ovost finished second in Group B, behind local ace Greg Cozier in his recently-acquired Lotus Elise, and ahead of Britain's Andrew Costin-Hurley, a regular on the event in his self-built rear-wheel-drive Ford Puma.

And it sounds as though Verbaas will be in much the same position in 2010. From his home in Holland this week, he said: "We wanted to do some development work, but we ran out of time! At the moment, we are servicing the car, doing some suspension work, some work on the engine for reliability, valve springs, oil pump and con rods. Oh, and we have to make the roof vent work, and the air box for the engine - last year, the inlet temperature was 60 degrees Centigrade!

"Since last year, we have only run the car at Mini in the Park at the Santa Pod Raceway in England, also as the Zero Car on a rally in Germany. I suppose it is the same as last year, really . . . we have no time to test for Barbados, so we test at King of the Hill!"

Although the Mini's 50th Anniversary was marked last year, 2010 also allows Mini enthusiasts the chance to celebrate, as the Minivan and the Mini Estate variants will reach their half-century in 2010.

Sol Rally Barbados (May 29/30) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 23) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB2010 marks the 20th Anniversary of the inaugural running of the Club's International All-Stage Rally.