Britain’s Paul Bird won yesterday’s (June 3) Sol Go Further/Scotiabank King of the Hill, the final shakedown ahead of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International. He is the first overseas driver to win in the five-year history of the event, and goes in to next weekend’s (June 9/10) Sol Rally Barbados in a confident mood.
With regular co-driver, Scotland’s Kirsty Riddick, alongside him in the Frank Bird Poultry/Fuchs-Silkolene Ford Focus WRC08, the former National Rally Champion was fourth in the practice run up the 3.4-kilometre Hangman’s Hill course, just over a second behind last year’s KotH winner Roger Skeete (Sol/Michelin/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre/Simpson Motors Subaru Impreza WRC S12).
Between Skeete (1m 52.65s) and Bird (1:53.84) were fellow-Brit Steve Perez (Kick Energy Drink Focus WRC07) and local ace Sean Gill (Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power/Automotive Art/Monster Energy Drink Suzuki SX4 WRC), with Jamaica’s Jeff Panton fifth, in his first tarmac outing in his recently-acquired Focus WRC06.
Having lost around 20 seconds to the leaders with a practice run spin, Trinidad’s John Powell (Intercontinental Shipping/Trinidad Mooring & Launch Services/FT Farfan/Shell Impreza WRC S14), was fastest on the first official run with 1:50.42, ahead of Bird (1:50.77), Skeete (1:51.32), Gill (1:52.17) and Panton (1:52.78).
Bird was the first (and only) driver to dip below 1:50 - his second official run would be his best, at 1:49.18; Powell and Skeete were second and third, but switched places on the final run, to complete the podium finishers. Panton improved to place fourth, ahead of Gill and Perez, who missed the final run when his oil cooler split. On his second visit, Britain’s Roger Duckworth drew appreciative cheers from spectators for his handling of the Vaucluse 90-right in the Intrinsys/Kumho Impreza WRC on his way to seventh.
Having finished third in 2010, then second last year, ‘Birdy’s victory was welcome: “We’ve never won Rally Barbados but, now we’ve won King of the Hill, it’s good for confidence going into next week. We tried some new settings using a suspension we haven’t used since Rally Spain in 2009 and the car was quicker and firmer on the slippy Bajan tarmac.”
Skeete said: “The anti-lag motor gave trouble, which delayed our progress - only getting it fixed for the final run which wasn’t soon enough, but it was a wonderful day.” Powell was also satisfied: “The plan was to be right there with the boys, then back it off for runs three and four to conserve the car. We had a spin right in front of everybody in the VIP!”
Twice winner of KotH Paul Bourne (Chefette/LIME/Slam 101/MQI/Banks/Castrol Ford Focus WRC07) was not so happy: “It couldn’t have gone much worse. The launch was fouling out on runs two, three and four and, to cap it off, I slid up a bank on the last run right in front of the VIP tent.”
The best of the two-wheel-drives were snapping at the heels of the World Rally Cars. In practice, Ian Warren (Automotive Art/Simpson Motors/Degree Suzuki Swift) was sixth, Brett Clarke (SM10 Citroen C2 S1600) seventh and Stuart Maloney (Automotive Art/Sign Station/Valvoline Peugeot 306 Maxi) 10th.
On the first official run, Neil Armstrong (Chefette/Lubriguard/Hankook Tyres/Nassco/Redline Fuels/ARMAG Rentals Toyota Starlet) moved ahead, and would not be bettered, ending the day eighth overall (1:53.53), SM10 winner and top 2wd as last year. While Warren and Clarke both ran second to Armstrong, Clarke prevailed, improving by 1.8secs on his last run (1:55.86) to finish 10th in one of the day’s most impressive drives.
Another to dig deep on the last run was Logan Watson (Oreo/Chips Ahoy!/Club Social/Formula1 High Performance Auto Care Products/Liquid Wrench/Sign Depot/The Unknown Entity/In support of Little Pink Gift BMW M3), whose 1:57.35 put him ahead of Maloney for the first time in the day, for victory in SuperModified 11 and 12th overall.
In Group N and Group A, the winners were Geoff Noel (Globe Finance/Sentry Insurance Brokers/Cargo Solutions International/Mix 96.9FM/CIAC Air Conditioners Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Avinash Chatrani (Electric Avenue/Hankook/Solder Seal Gunk/Niagra Water/Sign Station Evo VI) for the second year in a row.
Local drivers Carlos Edwards (SM9 Starlet), Daryl Clarke (M7 Honda Civic), Neil Corbin (M6 Starlet), Sean Cox (M5 Suzuki Swift Gti) and Jeremy Croney (Clubman Peugeot 206) were all class-winners, but there was also good news for the overseas contingent.
Returnee Andrew Siddall (Ford Escort MkI) beat Tim Pearcey (Escort RS1800) to the line in the all-English Historic battle, while Welshman Gary Thomas (Escort MkII) won Clubman Historic. Glenn Campbell (NIR) and Stuart Deeley (ENG) finished second and third in M5 in their Nissan Micras, and there were third-place finishes for Irish newcomers Joe McQuillan (Group A Evo VII), Martin Donnelly (Group N Evo IX), and Matt Shinnors (SM9 Escort MkII).
Scotland’s Kenny Hall (Ford Puma S1600) started the 10th anniversary of his first visit on the wrong foot, missing the practice and first official runs to resolve fuel pump issues; he still managed third in M6, however. Meanwhile fellow-Scot Allan Mackay in the famous Ford Anglia WRC seems to have a challenger for his International Mr Entertainment crown, as Ireland’s Raymond Conlon was certainly thrilling the crowd in his sideways Toyota Corolla.
In the only major incident of the day, Graeme Finlayson rolled his Group A Evo III shortly after the finish line; while he and co-driver Orville Bruce escaped with some bruising, the car was damaged beyond immediate repair.

Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) and Sol Go Further/Scotiabank King of the Hill (June 3) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007; title sponsor is the Sol Group. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, LIME, Automotive Art, Banks and Karcher; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Tourism Development Corporation, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Chefette, Climate Control, Field Insurance, Glacial Pure, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels, Scotiabank and Stoute’s Car Rental.

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