In response to the growing number of enquiries from overseas, the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) moved early this week to confirm the dates for the next running of its blue riband event: Sol Rally Barbados 2011 will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 4/5, with Scrutineering and the Shell V-Power King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ the previous weekend, May 28/29.

Sol Rally Barbados 2010 marked the 20th Anniversary of the inaugural running of the Club’s International All-Stage Rally; no fewer than 18 first-timers brought to 235 the number of overseas competitors hosted by the event in the past decade, a total organisers anticipate will pass the 250 mark next year.

Drivers and co-drivers from the wider Caribbean now number 57 – and that would have been 61, but for two first-time crews withdrawing after damaging their cars elsewhere in the region - while the International list stands at 178, from 15 countries; that total would also have been larger, but for late withdrawals from competitors affected by the continuing financial crisis. Over the four-month period that on-line entries were open, Sol Rally Barbados 2010 was oversubscribed by almost 20 per cent.

Rally Chairman Barry Gale is upbeat about the prospects for 2011: “Our first enquiry about the date came within days of this year’s Prizegiving, and questions are being asked on a few rally forums, particularly in Europe. We have enjoyed a steady growth in interest from Ireland, where there has been a valuable increase in media coverage in recent years . . . and I’m optimistic about welcoming more first-timers next year.

“To be honest, the level of support for our event surprised us this year, given the difficult times in which we have all been living; clearly, we must be getting something right! One thing I’ll admit we did fall down on was the date – by sticking with the last weekend in May, we lost one or two regular supporters, for whom UK school holidays play an important part in the decision to compete. We have consulted all the right people this time, and have been assured that the dates we’re announcing today fit perfectly.”

Beyond announcing the dates, the Club will not confirm any further details until later in the year, as Gale confirms: “We have already started kicking around some new ideas for the format, carefully studying all the locations to see what works, and what could perhaps be improved; decisions will not be made in a rush - rest assured, though, we are continuing in our never-ending search for the ‘best Rally Barbados yet’!”

From small beginnings in 1990 as a one-day rally for around 30 local competitors, Rally Barbados – it was renamed in 2003 - has grown into the Caribbean’s biggest annual international motor sport event, attracting as many as 90 crews, one-third of them from overseas. It is one of the strongest sporting brand names in the region, particularly for visitors from Europe, and a major contributor to the island’s tourism product and foreign exchange earnings.

Anniversary event in 2010 “amazing”
Rally Chairman Barry Gale says: “Our 20th anniversary event was, by all accounts, amazing. We achieved many of the goals we set ourselves, in particular by making the event even more accessible to those clubman competitors from Europe and the wider Caribbean who have, over the years, helped build our event into a huge success. A phenomenal level of financial support from our Marketing Partners allowed us to spread subsidies across everyone’s entry fees in 2010 - as one repeat driver put it: “We would not have been able to do Sol Rally Barbados this year without the Club generously subsidising our shipping and entry fees!”

“The investment from our Marketing Partners also enabled us to run the event in a professional manner; it was relatively incident-free, with only one stage cancelled due to an accident on Saturday afternoon, and one more later in the day, simply due to us running out of time.

“All of the Sunday stages were run, including the Shell V-Power SuperSpecial at Simpson Motors, where the atmosphere was electric, thanks to the battle that had been going on for two days between local stars Roger Skeete and Paul Bourne and Britain’s Paul Bird. The average human being takes 0.7 seconds to react to seeing a traffic light turn green - when they arrived at Warrens, after an hour of competitive stage driving, Skeete and Bourne were separated by less than two seconds, roughly double that reaction time, which made for a thrilling finale to the weekend!

“On behalf of the entire organising team, I would like to thank our title sponsor, the Sol Group, all our other Marketing Partners, the volunteer marshals and competitors for creating a fitting and memorable 20th Anniversary celebration.”

Sol Rally Barbados and Shell V-Power King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB11 is the 22nd running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the start of a second three-year term of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.

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