Photo: Gary Gregg in action on the Canefield stage in his Focus WRC in RB10


News that regional champions Gary Gregg and John Powell have confirmed their entries for Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5) further boosts the quality field for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, bringing the entry in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) World Rally Car class into double figures for the fourth year in a row.
Jamaican Gregg and co-driver Hugh Hutchinson won in 2006 and finished third in ‘05 and ‘08 in their previous Ford Focus WRC02, but did not enjoy the same fortune last year, when they dropped out of the top 10 on Sunday morning in the newer BD Gregg & Bros WRC05.
 Trinidad-based Powell, Jamaican by birth but representing his adopted home country, has twice finished second, in Toyota Corolla WRCs - in ’05, he finished 53 seconds behind Roger Mayers (Ford Focus WRC), then just 1.7 secs adrift of Paul Bourne (Subaru Impreza WRC S9) two years later. This year, he returns with regular co-driver Michael March armed with the Intercontinental Shipping Impreza S12 in which he finished fourth and highest-placed regional driver in 2010, co-driven by Britain’s Craig Thorley.
 The home team, led by 11-time winner Roger Skeete in last year’s victorious Impreza S12, also comprises: Paul Bourne (winner in ’03 and ‘07) in his ex-Paul Bird Focus WRC07; Sean Gill in the Suzuki SX4 WRC he drove to second place in both Rally Jamaica 2010 and Rally Trinidad earlier this year; regular top six finisher Roger Hill in his Corolla WRC, and Dean Serrao, whose Impreza S9 is also ex-Paul Bird.
 The British contingent comprises Bird in his Focus WRC08 – with two seconds and a third in his three visits, there is only one podium step he has not yet climbed; Rob Swann steps up to Modified 8-WRC after winning Group N last year with a third Impreza S12, while Roger Duckworth (ex-Juha Kankkunen Impreza WRC) will experience Barbados for the first time, free entry, flights, shipping and accommodation his prize for winning Rallye Sunseeker National in the UK in February.
Automotive Art capitalises on motor sport sponsorship
Automotive Art, a long-term backer of the Barbados Rally Club, is capitalising on its sponsorship by staging its bi-annual Franchise Conference to coincide with Sol Rally Barbados 2011; this year, the company will also host all of its distributors.
 Founded in 1990 by Hugh Blades and Dereck Foster, the company is a former sponsor of the BRC Driver’s Championship and, more recently, principal backer of the Club’s blue riband event’s ‘signature’ stage, Canefield; it has sponsorship interest in more than 10 cars in the various disciplines of island motor sport, and many more across the region.
 Automotive Art’s products can be found in 45 stores across the Americas and the Caribbean: it is represented in 26 countries, with 14 stores in eight franchise countries, while its products also sold to distributors in 18 other markets, including the USA.
 A new state-of-the-art retail facility recently opened in Welches, St Thomas, and one reason for the decision to hold the Conference in Barbados is to allow franchisees and distributors to experience it. Automotive Art’s Vice-President of Franchising and Finance, Chris Maloney, explained: “Having celebrated our 20th Anniversary last August, and just launched the new store, we thought it would be great for our distributors to come to Barbados, not only to take part in the celebrations with our franchisees, but to see first-hand the benefits of becoming a franchise.
 “Our Franchise Conference is every two years - we discuss various topics of concern, bring to light new developments in the industry, and enjoy ground-breaking brainstorming on what we want to accomplish as a group for the following two years. There are also awards for the best small store, large store, new product development and, of course, Franchisee of the Year.”
 Including franchisees, distributors, their spouses and members of the corporate team, around 80 people will participate; once the weekday work is done, they will gather again in the VIP Hospitality Tent. Maloney added: “It is customary at the Conference to have a ‘fun day’ once the formalities are over, so we can mingle as a family. Since Automotive Art is a huge player in the motor sport arena, especially at Sol Rally Barbados, it was the ideal weekend for the Conference, so that our guests could enjoy this amazing event.”
Sol Rally Barbados (June 4/5, 2011) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 29) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB2011 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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