Perez heads Sol RB connections in BTRDA season-opener

Four more regular visitors from Europe have confirmed their entries for Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) through the event’s official web site, www.rallybarbados.bb, bringing to more than 30 their combined total of visits to the island in the past decade.

Scotland’s Kenny Hall returns to compete for the 10th time – he has only missed one year since his 2002 debut – and has become a regular visitor for family holidays, too. This year, Holland’s Fenny Wesselink returns as his co-driver, making her seventh trip.

When Wesselink first visited the island in 2003, it was as co-driver to fellow-countryman Wim Wermink in his historic Opel Ascona; also in the Netherlands party that year was Frans Verbaas with an Opel Astra, co-driven by Kees Hagman. They return together in 2012, Verbaas for his sixth visit, Hagman for his third.

Hall has three times won the Modified 5 classification, in his Opel Corsa, in 2004 with Colin Smith as co-driver, then twice with Wesselink on the notes: in 2007, 22nd overall was also good enough for them to claim the trophy as the highest-placed crew including a female, and they won again in Sol RB09.

The four-time Scottish class champion is back for the third time with his ex-works Super 1600 Halltune Ford Puma; he is hoping for better fortune than on the car’s two previous visits – in Sol RB10, ‘Kenny & Fenny’ were just a few hundred yards away from another class win, until a wrong slot on the first run of the Shell V-Power SuperSpecial at Simpson Motors dropped them to second in M6.

Last year was one to forget, with an ‘off’ in the early part of Saturday, followed by a number of mechanical problems, and eventual retirement. Hall’s disappointment was compounded when teenage son Alex, making his island debut in his father’s former Corsa, had an accident on Sunday.

Hall says: “It is good to be returning again this year; business here is brutal, it has been the longest January that I can remember. Still, we’ve got May to look forward to – bring it on! We’ve got some fixing to do before we leave, though – we attempted the McRae Stages last October; it was pouring with rain and the stages were rougher than I can remember. We had to pull out after the sump split, the engine mounting split, the sumpguard bent and the lower suspension arm bushes popped out . . . it even tore the sills and fibre glass rear quarters to bits!”

Dutch Mini enthusiast Verbaas – the family have more than 20 examples between them – is bringing his distinctive self-built Group B Mini, which was dubbed ‘The Clockwork Orange’ by Britain’s popular Mini Magazine, for the fourth time. Created to mark the 50th Anniversary of the iconic marque in 2009, it is built around much of the running gear from his former Opel Astra Kit Car.

On his first visit in 2003, driving that Astra, in which he had won the Dutch Rally Championship in four consecutive years (1998 to 2001), he retired with overheating; four years later, he finished 27th overall and fifth in M7 in a newly-built Opel Astra Sport. On the brand-new Mini’s debut in 2009, despite very little chance to test before the event, Verbaas finished second in Group B; he went one better the following year, claiming the Group win, but slipped back down the order in Sol RB11, finishing seventh.

Perez heads Sol RB connections in BTRDA season-opener

Sol Rally Barbados connections are in action in the UK this weekend, with the start of the BTRDA Rally Championship, won in 2010 by island regulars Steve Perez and Paul Spooner in the Kick Energy Drink Ford Focus WRC07. Perez and Spooner are seeded at one for Saturday’s (February 11) Team GMF Wyedean Forest Rally, as last year’s winner and reigning BTRDA Champion Andy Burton is currently taking a rest from competition, now that his self-built Peugeot Cosworth is no longer eligible in the UK.

At three, Focus-mounted Charlie Payne is co-driven by Craig Thorley, Group N winner with Ryan Champion in RB08, while Roger Duckworth starts at eight in the Subaru Impreza WRC in which he finished seventh in Sol RB11. Further down the field, father and son Rob and Ross Weir, who will compete in Barbados for the first time this year, continue the shakedown of their new Subaru Impreza B13.

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

Kenny Hall in his Ford Puma
Frans Verbaas in his Mini
Photos by San Chandler/vtcaribbean.com

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