Back in competition after an 11-month absence, Paul Bourne started his preparations for Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5) in style by winning Sunday’s BRC Shakedown Stages; co-driven by Ronald Plant in the Banks/Chefette/MQI/Castrol Ford Focus WRC07, his margin of victory was just under eight seconds after 48 stage kilometres.
Despite a smaller field than expected and a high rate of attrition – only 23 of the 44 starters were classified as overall finishers - fans were treated to a feast of stylish driving, with action aplenty, as they enjoyed their first chance to weigh up how some of the island’s new (or returning) combinations would fare against the established runners.
 Bourne trailed Roger Skeete and Louis Venezia (Virgin Atlantic/One World Group/Michelin/Simpson Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12) in the early stages, tenths away on each run to lie second at the lunch halt, 0.86secs behind; damage to one piece of the new ECM timing equipment, however, meant that drivers were not being informed of their times stage-by-stage, important to those keen to know whether to push harder.
 After lunch, aware of the gap to Bourne, Skeete did just that, building his margin to eight seconds by the end of stage 10; on the next stage, however, the advantage was lost. Skeete said: “The bravery level was high, I turned in too early and clipped a kerb hidden in grass; although it caused no damage, we had a 25-second spin, then stalled.”
 Bourne assumed the lead, with an advantage of nearly 13secs; Skeete cut that back by four on the final run from Three Houses to Padmore Village, but had to settle for second. Bourne said: “It was good. I was a little slow at first, but the rust came off slowly but surely as I gradually regained my confidence.”
 Trinidad-based Jamaican John Powell’s no-show disappointed some fans – his Impreza WRC S12 was not cleared from the Bridgetown Port in time – but there was still lots to see: after its second-place finishes in Jamaica and Trinidad, the Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power/Automotive Art/Chefette Suzuki SX4 WRC of Sean Gill and Michael Cummins was not on the ultimate pace, thanks to overheating brakes, but finished third. Fourth was Roger Hill, in the Esso/Nassco/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC, of which co-driver Graham Gittens said: “The older tech car can’t really keep up, so we just let the others apply pressure on each other and capitalise on any mistakes they make.”
 In Group N, Mark Hamilton and Geoff Noel swapped times throughout the day in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IXs – the score-line was Hamilton 6, Noel 4 – but the 20secs lost by Hamilton on stage 10 gifted the class to Noel; Andrew Mallalieu provided an action moment for the crowds at the Bushy Park triangle - he rolled his Impreza N10, recalling afterwards: “I will always remember the big tree - I saw it from a number of angles.”
 The fierce two-wheel-drive battle, was the talking point for many, however . . . and it started on the very first run from Colleton to Cliff. With a time of 1m 49.35s, Group N leader Noel had the front-running two-wheel-drive cars on his tail: after a late night working on the car, Neil Armstrong clocked 1:49.52 in his Toyota Starlet, now with 1.8-litre Formula Atlantic power; 2008 Caribbean circuit racing champion Stuart Maloney returning to rallying in a Peugeot 306 Maxi (1:49.74); Josh Read was just one-hundredth slower in his Starlet, with Brett Clarke (Citroen C2 S1600) another second back.
 Armstrong finished outside the top five only once (within six-tenths of the World Cars of Gill and Hill on SS3), placed fifth overall, top two-wheel-drive and SuperModified 10 winner; Read finished a place behind, 24secs down, and picked up SM9 honours.
 Fans lost the chance to see Armstrong head-to-head with SM10’s current class car, Ian Warren’s Suzuki Swift, which dropped a valve and failed to start, while Maloney’s early retirement (blown engine) left the SM11 scrap to the BMWs of eventual winner Brian Gill and Logan Watson, both of whom were regular top 10 visitors.
 The final ingredient in the new two-wheel-drive cocktail is the SM9 Starlet of Barry and Roger Mayers; after an early-morning road accident – neither was injured – there was a further setback when the rally car cut out on the way to the start; they started late, but were in the top 10 for the last four stages. Roger said: “We had some gearbox trouble downshifting, also the car is too low - we’d like to go up an inch, but the current suspension won’t allow so we will have to modify the top mounts.”
The BRC Shakedown Stages (May 8), Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5) 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.
BRC Shakedown Stages, May 8
Virgin Atlantic BRC Driver’s & Class Championships, round 3
1st Paul Bourne/Ronald Plant (M8-WRC Banks/Chefette/MQI/Castrol Ford Focus WRC07), 23m 07.58s
2nd Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia (M8-WRC Virgin Atlantic/One World Group/Michelin/Simpson Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12), 23m 15.44s
3rd Sean Gill/Michael Cummins (M8-WRC Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power/Automotive Art/Chefette Suzuki SX4 WRC), 23m 31.86s
4th Roger Hill/Graham Gittens (M8-WRC Esso/Nassco/MotorMac Toyota Corolla WRC), 23m 43.24s
5th Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (SM10 Lubriguard Oils/Hankook Tyres/Nassco Drink Toyota Starlet), 24m 12.35s
6th Josh Read/Mark Jordan (SM9 Automotive Art/Baram Services Toyota Starlet), 24m 37.74s
7th Geoffrey Noel/Kreigg Yearwood (P4 Globe Finance/Sentry Insurance Brokers/Mix 96.9/Automotive Art/Cargo Solution International/CIAC Airconditioners Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 24m 54.75s
8th Mark Hamilton/Clive Howell (P4 First Caribbean International Bank/Consumer Guarantee Insurance/PowerMaster/Simpson Motors/Automotive Art Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 25m 06.13s
9th Brian Gill/Harry Tempro (SM11 Kerns Juices/Maxi Malta BMW M3), 25m 11.34s
10th Logan Watson/Jeremy Foster (SM11 The Unknown Entity BMW M3), 25m 31.67s
Modified 8-WRC: 1st Bourne/Plant; 2nd Skeete/Venezia; 3rd Gill/Cummins; etc
Modified 8-A: 1st Avinash Chatrani/Martin Goddard (Electric Avenue/EA Mobile/Hankook/Solder Seal Gunk Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), 46m 56.15s
Production 4: 1st Noel/Yearwood; 2nd Hamilton/Howell; 3rd Andrew Mallalieu/Chris Millward (Terra Caribbean Subaru Impreza N10), 27m 25.76s
SuperModified 11: 1st Gill/Tempro; 2nd Watson/Foster; 3rd Andrew Jones/Kurt Ward (A P Jones Pharmacy/Rally & Competition Equipment/Precision Automotive/Southern Surf Beach Apartments Ford Escort MkII), 25m 56.23s; etc
SM10: 1st Armstrong/Ward
SM9: 1st Read/Jordan; 2nd Allan Maynard/Marcus Beck (Marshal Trading/Roberts Manufacturing/Pine Hill Dairy/Lubriguard/El Tigre Catamaran Cruises/Williams Equipment Toyota Starlet, 27m 35.11s; 3rd Barry Mayers/Roger Mayers (Chefette/Digicel/Delaware Dispensary/Illusion Graphics/Quality Tyre Toyota Starlet), 30m 16.92s
M7: 1st Jeremy Sisnett/Justin Sisnett (Ford Fiesta); 28m 22.94s; 2nd Kyle Catwell/Norman Catwell (Carib Beer/Freekz Customz/Ellesmere Quarries/Cutters Of Barbados Volkswagen Golf GTI), 30m 43.87s; 3rd Daryl Clarke/Russell Brancker (Ellco Rentals/Roberts Manufacturing/Mom's Pasta Products Honda Civic), 32m 18.25s
M6: 1st Neil Corbin/Adam Alleyne (Nassco/Jason Jones/Auto Solutions Toyota Starlet), 25m 56.35s; 2nd Dane Skeete/Tyler Mayhew (One World Group/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre Peugeot 206), 30m 44.43s; 3rd Brendon Mckenzie/Tony Pile (Budex Couriers Toyota Corolla), 32m 15.80s
P3: 1st Sean Field/Darnley Rayside (Field Insurance Brokers/Castrol Oil/Ackee Tree/AM Realty Services/Landscapes in Harmony Peugeot 306), 27m 33.41s
P2: 1st Conor Roach/Damien Moore (Peugeot 106 Rallye), 29m 25.32s; 2nd Fabien Clarke/Arlington Hoyte (Barbados Business Listings/Crimson Jade Consulting/RCR Tours/Bovell Auto Repair Suzuki Ignis Sport), 31m 59.07s
Clubman: 1st Shannon Kirton/Lisa Roett (Fingerprint Designs Datsun 160J), 31m 55.91s
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