As preparations move into top gear for Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10), regular visitors Paul Bird, Kenny Hall and Martin Stockdale have been at the forefront of the European invasion of the island, which started at the weekend. Scheduled flights carrying competitors and their families will land at the island’s Grantley Adams International Airport every day this week, airlifting a record International entry.

‘Birdy’, Hall and Stockdale have already clocked up 24 competition visits between them, a total which rises significantly once family holidays outside rally season are taken into account; along with other serial returnees, such as Andrew Costin-Hurley, Steve Perez, Rob Swann and Simon Wallis, they are prime examples of the success of the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International as the sports-tourism product.

‘Birdy’, who has four consecutive podium finishes to his credit in the Barbados Rally Club’s blue riband event and is eager to tick the Barbados box, arrived in the island on Friday for a few days of relaxation before the start of competition in Sunday’s (June 3) Sol Go Further/Scotiabank King of the Hill. The UK’s 2005 National Rally Champion’s Frank Bird Poultry/Fuchs-Silkolene Ford Focus WRC08 lands on tomorrow’s (Tuesday) Virgin Atlantic flight from London Gatwick.

Hall, who arrived on Sunday, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his first visit to Barbados, since when the Scotsman has three times won the local Modified 5 classification in his Opel Corsa, a string of victories to which he would like to add an M6 class win in his Halltune Garage Ford Puma S1600.

Stockdale can claim an even longer association with Barbados, however, as 2012 marks his 12th consecutive visit; three times a class-winner, the first on his second trip in 2002, when he won Modified Open, finished seventh overall, and also claimed the trophies for highest-placed overseas crew, he has rarely travelled home to the UK without a trophy in his luggage.

His choice of car – always a BMW – and press-on driving style earned him hero status with local fans, who have dubbed him ‘Mad-dale’; he has been campaigning his current Divi Southwinds/Drive-a-Matic/Quarry Motors BMW M3 Compact since 2009, having replaced the mighty M3 GTR in which he won Group B in 2005.

In all, a record 63 International drivers or co-drivers are entered this year, along with 10 from the wider Caribbean, of whom 28 are newcomers to the event; they represent 15 nations, including host country Barbados.

‘Rally Central’ provides one-stop shop for overseas competitors

Just a few minutes away from the island’s Bridgetown Port, ‘Rally Central’ is currently almost silent, awaiting the steady stream of overseas competitors for Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) who will arrive in the coming days, eager to be reunited with rally cars most will not have seen for nearly four weeks.

Rally Central, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) one-stop shop for visiting crews who do not already enjoy a working relationship with friends or businesses in the island, has moved this year to the Fontabelle premises of Motor Services, formerly the local Hyundai dealer. In addition to being in a more convenient location, just a stone’s throw from the Port gates – this has made moving nearly 30 rally cars a much easier task – the new premises are also significantly larger than before, vital in light of the record overseas entry.

Once they have been cleared by Customs, overseas cars are removed from the Port and taken to Rally Central, if not already hosted by a local friend – the Oxford University Motorsport Foundation Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint GTV, for instance, is housed at Ullyett’s Machine Shop at Content, which has also assisted with the outfitting of Rally Central this year with the loan of interior lighting.

Rally Central provides secure storage for cars and spares before and after the owners themselves are in the island, also workshop accommodation and infrastructure, including access to knowledgeable local engineers; this is a particular benefit for newcomers, of whom there are no fewer than 12 this year. Alongside the workshop is an extensive parts store, with all its racking still intact, which competitors can use to store spares, tyres and equipment, helping to keep the workshop space as uncluttered as possible.

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.

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

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