As entries for Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) closed this week, the final drivers from around the region who will be participating in the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International have been confirmed. They are first-timer Stan Hartling, representing the Turks & Caicos Islands, and Trinidad’s Vishal Dhanraj, who returns for his fifth consecutive year.

Although new to Sol Rally Barbados itself, Hartling made his first competition appearance in the island in the Valvoline Shakedown Stages just two weeks ago; co-driven in his striking Lotus Exige by fellow-Canadian Andy Proudfoot, he ran in SuperModified 11. Despite encountering gear selection problems in the early part of the event – he lost fourth, fifth and six – he was fourth in class after three stages, but then found a gearbox oil bung missing at service, so retired to prevent further damage.

While his previous experience includes conventional events such as Targa Newfoundland, where he has been a regular finisher – eighth overall and class second in 2009 in his BMW M3 among his best results – he has also enjoyed the more odd-ball side of motor sport, including the 24 Hours of LeMons series of races in North America.

These endurance events – cars usually race for 14-and-a-half hours over a weekend – are run for cars costing less than US $500 to buy and build; while the usual regulations dealing with important issues such as safety follow main-line motor sport, the approach to cars and competition is rather more light-hearted. Hartling says: “We built a real special, a police pursuit car cut down, caged and then we put on a Ford F150 truck body . . . backwards! It drives the guys on the track nuts!”

In comparison with Hartling, Dhanraj is a veteran of rallying the island, with three overall finishes in Sol Rally Barbados in the last four years, and occasional outings in other island events. He was first seen in Sol RB08, when he finished 35th overall, sixth in M8-A in a Subaru Impreza Sti, proudly flying his national flag from the roof.

He then switched to two-wheel-drive, with the ex-David Williams Toyota Starlet, with progressively better results of 10th, sixth and then fourth last year in SuperModified 9. He remains in the class this year, driving the ex-James Betts Opel Corsa, sponsored by Gulf Motor Oil, Lucozade Energy and the V3 Rally Team. Back home, he is in the process of having his own new Toyota Starlet built for local events.

His co-driver this year is the experienced American Scott Leonard, who currently lives in Trinidad. He has an impressive record as both driver – winner of the Idaho Rally in 2008 – and co-driver in a wide variety of North America events.

Record local entry enjoys healthy sponsorship

With Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) a little over three weeks away, local competitors have been completing their preparations for the island calendar’s annual highlight. When entries closed on Monday, the final rush of crews to complete their payments and update entry forms threw up some interesting statistics.

The current entry list stands at 108 – in recent weeks, 13 of the original 121 entries made on-line have been withdrawn – which total includes 72 local competitors, a record for the event . . . and more than twice as many cars as started the BRC’s inaugural International All-Stage Rally back in 1990; a number remain on a stand-by list, and will be incorporated into the final start list in accordance with the provisions of the ASRs, as the BRC works towards its maximum start cap of 100 cars.

As many on-line entries were posted as long ago as last October, only a few competitors had completed vital sponsorship negotiations when making their initial entries; apart from either change or confirmation of co-driver, it is under the ‘sponsors’ heading where most changes have been made this week.

A survey of the completed forms reveals that more than 160 local companies or brand names have been listed as sponsors by those 72 local competitors, with support coming from all sides of commerce and industry; while there are many predictable automotive brand names on the list, including fuels, lubricants, tyres, there is also sponsorship from sectors ranging from food and beverage companies and restaurants through the telecommunications industry to financial services and insurance.

Sol Rally Barbados and Shell V-Power King of the Hill are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB12 is the 23rd running of the Club’s annual International All-Stage Rally and marks the fifth year of title sponsorship by the Sol Group, the Caribbean’s largest independent oil company.

Web sites: www.rallybarbados.bb; www.barbadosrallyclub.com

Photo: Stan Hartling competing in the Valvoline Shakedown, by Himal Reece/justbajan.com

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