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Regional Support Up For Sol Rally Barbados
Strong Bajan team travels south for Rally Trinidad

Regional support 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, is on the rise, with the prospect of a record entry for the last two decades from the wider Caribbean.

With five weeks to go until closing date on April 30, there are already 10 on-line entries from four other territories – twice as many as last year, and the first time the number has reached double figures in recent history – with more promised once this weekend's Rally Trinidad (March 26-28) has been run.

And it is the twin-island state that has been a major driving force in this increased support; of those 10 entries, six crews are from Trinidad, all but one will be newcomers to the event . . . and they have helped drive the total of four-wheel-drive cars currently entered up to 26, approaching a record for Rally Barbados.

Officials of the Trinidad and Tobago Rally Club (TTRC) have been working tirelessly in recent years to return the island's rallying scene to its former healthy state . . . and their efforts are being rewarded; in addition to increased entries from other territories, the TTRC has attracted experienced organisers from both Barbados and Jamaica to help in the smooth running of their premier loose-surface event this weekend.

Following an encouraging 24-car local entry for the opening round of the TTRC Stages Championship at Preysal at the end of February, Rally Trinidad has attracted 40 crews – a record since the present format was introduced in 2004 – including triple British Rally Champion Mark Higgins, co-driven in a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX by Nicky Grist, who sat alongside the late Colin McRae for six seasons in the World Rally Championship.

Higgins is already a familiar face in Caribbean rallying, having visited Barbados on more than one occasion, and his time spent in both islands has included running ‘master classes' for local competitors; indeed, the Chairman of Rally Barbados, Barry Gale, is campaigning his recently-acquired ex-Higgins Group N Evo IX this season.

The growing co-operation between the clubs in Barbados and Trinidad is encouraging increased inter-island travel and ever-greater competition between drivers; this weekend's RT10 includes no fewer than eight crews from Barbados, some of whom will enjoy a chance to measure themselves against competitors who will be making the trip north for Sol Rally Barbados at the end of May.

Currently the form driver in Barbados, and winner of Rally Trinidad in 2008, Paul Bourne leads the invasion in his Banks/Chefette/LIME/Virgin Atlantic Ford Focus WRC07, the car in which Britain's Paul Bird finished second to Kris Meeke in Sol RB09. With co-driver Stuart Maloney - no mean driver himself, and the 2008 Caribbean Motor Racing Champion - their main target is Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell, who is doing his best to contest a full season in both Barbados and Trinidad . . . and started off well in the latter, with victory (in his Group N Evo IX) in the February opener at Preysal.

For this weekend, he and Nicholas Telfer are entered in his Shell Helix-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S12, hoping to repeat his victories of 2005 & '06, achieved in a Toyota Corolla WRC; Powell is included in the growing regional entry for Sol RB2010, an event he is yet to win – among five top 10 results, he has twice finished second, to Roger Mayers (Ford Focus) in 2005, then Bourne's Impreza S9 in '07 (by just 1.7secs), and would dearly like to add the title to his portfolio.

RT10 will also provide valuable seat time for Bajan Dean Serrao, who acquired Bourne's Impreza S9 at the beginning of the season, and owner of the Evo IX Higgins is driving in Trinidad; others running in the four-wheel-drive classes are Neil Armstrong in his Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI and Barbados-based British ex-pat Harold Morley in his Group N NET2VU Impreza N14.

In the two-wheel-drive classes, the island will be represented by Ian Warren, who finished an impressive second overall and class-winner last year in the Automotive Art/Shell V-Power/Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift, BRC vice-chairman Mark Hamilton (Valvoline Oil/PowerMaster Batteries/Kumho Batteries/Consolidated Finance Ford Escort MkII), and 3W's team-mates Stuart White and Ryan Wood in their Toyota Starlets.

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.