Trevor Gale

Trevor Gale

The Club’s longest-serving Chairman, Trevor Gale, was a great innovator who paved the way for motor sport’s development in the island

A competitor in the first June Rally in a Singer Gazelle – he finished third, with navigator Stumpy Goddard – Gale was a member of the Club’s first committee of management, taking over as Chairman in 1963. He remained in the post, with Bill Mallalieu as Vice-Chairman, for more than a decade, before the Club’s restructuring elevated them to the newly-created positions of President and Vice-President.

For some years, these two also took turns to set the June Rally, so that the other could compete in alternate years.

Gale came from a competitive background,

albeit in a different discipline – his father was what he describes proudly as “the best racehorse trainer ever in Barbados” – and was always driven to push competitors to the limits, particularly by setting tough rallies: “After I stopped setting them, the rallies got rather uninteresting for a while. I enjoyed sending competitors down into gullies, and giving them a tough average speed . . . when the speed limit was 30mph, I’d make the average speed 29.9mph!”

One of the many memorable stories from the early history of the June Rally comes from 1962, and illustrates that point well: route-setter Gale had chosen Uplands Factory Yard for the stop-over point, which was always a closely-guarded secret. After close study of the local terrain, he had concluded that one could drive round this place from every direction and still not see into the inner yard. With sign-post information eliminated, mistakes were easily made . . . and this separated the sheep from the goats. Around half the 45 cars missed it and, as the route was written to a point well past Uplands, some did not realise their mistake until they found themselves on the road down to Sandy Lane golf course. It was at this point that Dobbie Douglas turned to his navigator George Branker and said “where to next?” To which Branker made the legendary riposte: “Skipper! There en no more!”

Gale was also a successful competitor – he won the June Rally in 1966, with navigator the Hon Robin Lewis, an English aristocrat who was working in Barbados at the time, of whom Gale recalls: “He was an extremely thorough navigator, he knew every inch of the route, even where every water course passed under the road. We only did one rally, as he had returned to England by the next year.”

That victory came in a Triumph TR4, the first of a series of red cars, the colour becoming something of a trademark for Gale. He was also very competitive in dexterity tests, although one attempt to stop the wheel-hopping antics of his Triumph Herald Coupe was less than successful: “I placed two bags of sand, one each side of the trunk, but they were not secured. When the car cocked up its back leg, both bags of sand landed at the same end of the trunk, and the car landed on its side. Everyone saw me climbing out as if I were coming out of a submarine.”

There followed a variety of cars, including a Honda – “smaller than a Mini” – in which he won his class on a Mobil Mileage Rally, a Hillman Hunter GLS – “it was capable of 100mph, and I did it!” – and, latterly, a Morris Marina. One car which suffered at his hands was a Fiat 125, in which he struggled into the night-time stopover in a June Rally of the early 1970s with a broken sump: “I went upstairs, slept for 20 minutes, came down for breakfast, went outside . . . and the fellers had changed the whole engine.”

Gale’s desire to create challenging events resulted in a great deal of innovation, of which he can be justly proud. In the early 1960s, he was the man behind the first road closures which, as he remembers: “opened up the whole business of speed events.” At the time, the Ministry of Highways & Transport used to post notices at the Garrison on race days, making the perimeter road temporarily one-way; noting this, Gale approached the then Minister Edwi Talma to see whether something similar could be arranged for motor sport. And it was, although the first time it was done, the notice was posted earlier than Gale had intended, revealing more information about the route than necessary, so some quick changes had to be made!

His innovations also included the first long June Rally (see page 30), and the introduction of a Hill Sprint Series, using five venues around the island; Spa Hill and Turner’s Hall, which had already been used as tests within the June Rally, were combined with Bath, Greenland to Farley Hill and Thicket to Stewarts Hill to make up the calendar. Gale remembers: “It only ran for three years or so, as some of the hills deteriorated so badly. I think Bath was probably the best we had – it had everything, a flat part, two hairpin bends and then it was very steep in parts. It was probably just under two miles.”

While events needed to be challenging, they should also be fun, and Gale clearly derived a lot of enjoyment from his time with the Club. He recalled some of the Treasure Hunts: “I was the one who wrote the clues. We did some crazy things – people were driving faster, with their kids in the back, than they did in rallies! Once, we put a clue on Culpepper Island, and the tide started to come in before everyone had waded over to see it . . . Maurice Hutt had to be pulled out.”

As Chairman, Gale oversaw the Club’s expansion into circuit racing, first at Chancery Lane, then Bushy Park. He says: “When we knew we wouldn’t be able to continue with Chancery Lane, a number of sites were suggested – we toured all these sites. I said to them, ‘if we’re going to go circuit racing, we need to hold it next to a hill.’ Of course, once I saw Bushy Park, I knew we need look no further.”

Gale was last seen in ‘competition’ during the 40th Anniversary June Rally, in which a short dexterity test was staged in the car park of the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, before everyone drove in convoy to Applewhaites Factory Yard, start of the first June Rally in 1957; thereafter, the first route was designed to attract competitors from the past, who could then retire gracefully before the night section.

On that occasion, he drove a Triumph TR4, the same type of car in which he had won the event in 29 years before; it was on loan from the Mallalieu Collection, whose owner Bill drove the Collection’s Rover 75, which is the only car remaining from the first June Rally.

While Gale very rarely goes to motor sport events these days, his legacy lives on. Daughter Celine was a tough competitor in her own right, as was son-in-law Dave Barnard, a triple June Rally winner. Dave remains involved as a Club Steward on Rally Barbados and as an enthusiastic supporter of son Neil, who is one of the most successful drivers of his generation, with four consecutive Group championships to his credit in recent years.

The competitive streak that was instilled in Trevor Gale on his first visit to the Garrison at the age of four to watch his father at work has certainly not been lost by future generations.

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