images of Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino testing the Ford Performance/Monster Energy/Hoonigan Racing Ford Fiesta Rally2 at a wet Bushy Park this morning (Thursday)

Sol RB20 winners Skeete & Mayhew seeded at number one

American motor sport star Ken Block is in the island and looking forward to this weekend’s (October 31/November 1) Sol Rally Barbados 2020, an event he says he has “wanted to do for years”. And before he gets down to the serious business of competition, he will participate in a socially-distanced Meet & Greet and Autograph Session with fans at Automotive Art, Welches, tomorrow evening (Friday).

  Block and long-term co-driver Alex Gelsomino were originally entered in the Hoonigan Racing Division’s reimagined 1990s Ford Escort Cosworth - ‘CossieV2’ - as part of the second Cossie World Tour but date changes around the world caused by the coronavirus pandemic changed their plans. They will now campaign a brand-new EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 among the record entry of seven in the island’s fast-growing FIA R5 class, with support from Ford Performance and Monster Energy.

  At yesterday’s (Wednesday) Briefing Meeting, Block said that he is looking forward to the weekend: “I haven’t driven an R5 for 15 months, when I did a comparison test with the Cossie in Ireland, something I’d been thinking about since the day the Ford Escort Cossie V2 was finished. I’m familiar with the chassis, so it won’t take too long to settle in.” Since then, he has this morning tested the M-Sport built car at a very damp Bushy Park, where it arrived at last week.

  With around six million followers on each of Facebook and Instagram, Block is one of the most-recognised names in global motor sport, with a huge boost in coverage promised for the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event as the island struggles to rebuild its tourism industry. He has already been posting images and clips of his time in the island, a catamaran trip and swimming with turtles among the local attractions he has enjoyed. And the fans have been joining in, too, welcoming him back.

  Tomorrow’s Autograph Session between 6.00pm and 7.00pm will take place outside Automotive Art, Welches, where Block’s Fiesta Rally2 will be on display; all social distancing rules will apply and the wearing of masks will be strictly enforced. Before that, An Audience with Ken Block will be broadcast live on social media from inside the building: scheduled to start at 5.15pm, a short Q&A session, conducted by the ‘voice of the World Rally Championship’ Becs Williams, will be followed by questions from a select group of local media, limited in numbers by Covid Protocols.

  Sol RB20 is not Block’s first visit to compete in Barbados, following his earlier appearances in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series at Bushy Park and he is hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself: “Even though I was very quick here (especially in 2014), I have never had a good result. In fact, I have had two wildly bad crashes because of some strange circumstances - so, I am hoping that I can shake that bad-luck curse this weekend in Sol Rally Barbados!”

Sol RB20 winners Skeete & Mayhew seeded at number one

Following their victory by just four-hundredths of a second in last Sunday’s (October 25) Flow King of the Hill, Sol RB19 winners Dane Skeete and Tyler Mayhew are seeded at number one for the 31st running of the BRC’s premier event in their Sol/CO Williams Sand & Lime/Automotive Art Subaru Impreza WRC S12. They will leave the start at Sol Charnocks shortly after 10.00am, followed by five-time winner Jamaica’s Jeff Panton and Mike Fennell Jnr (Rubis/Sandals/KIG Ford Fiesta WRC) and the leading European crew of recent years, Britain’s Rob Swann and Darren Garrod (Blue Sky Luxury/Marriott All-Inclusive Fiesta WRC).

  Fourth overall last weekend and winners of FIA R5, Stuart Maloney and Kristian Yearwood (Rock Hard Cement/Bushy Park Barbados Fabia) start at four, ahead of fellow R5 runners Roger Hill and Graham Gittens (Esso/MaxMeyer Paints/Motormac/DJ’s Skoda Fabia), with Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino at number six in the Hoonigan Racing Division/Ford Performance/Monster Energy Fiesta Rally2.

  Highest-placed 2wd last weekend, Barry Mayers and Ben Norris (Chefette/Rubis/Quality Tyre/Sign Depot Ford Fiesta), start at seven, ahead of R5 crews Andrew Mallalieu/Geoff Goddard (Terra Caribbean Ford Fiesta) and Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho, with Bajan co-driver Barry Ward in the Subway/Motul Fiesta. Second in 2wd at KotH, Andrew Jones and Lindsey Pilkington (Herr’s Chips/AP Jones Pharmacy/Southern Surf Beach Apartments/Kepro Veterinary Solutions/Gales Agro/Weetabix/Java Island Coffee/Weetabix/The Shore Club Turks & Caicos/Hankook Ford Escort MkII) complete the top 10.

  Sol RB20 will feature a total of 19 stages, passing through all but one of the island’s parishes; a radical rethink of the route and a move away from the tradition of Saturday stages in the north and Sunday’s in the south-east will offer competitors an exciting new challenge, including the longest special stage in recent memory – Automotive Art Halton to Drax Hall at 8.1 kilometres – traditionally a Sunday stage, now running three times on Saturday. After around 100kms of timed stages, the rally will finish with a 2.0km SuperSpecial ending in the Vaucluse Raceway, although Government Covid Protocols mean it will be closed to spectators.

  Covid Protocols were much in evidence at Flow KotH last Sunday and the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) once again urges all stakeholders to Stay Safe, Stay Sanitized, Stay Distanced, Stay Masked, Stay Alert & Spectate Safely.

Sol Rally Barbados and Flow King of the Hill are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2017; Sol RB20 marks the 13th year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company, and the fifth by communications provider Flow.

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