Countdown steps up a gear with Valvoline Shakedown Stages

As Irish entries for Sol Rally Barbados 2012 (June 9/10) approach record numbers, the latest crews confirmed reveal an attack on the event from both sides of the Atlantic. As County Antrim’s Joe McQuillan confirms his entry in Group A, the country’s four-wheel-drive contingent is boosted in Group N by New York-based Martin Donnelly, both newcomers to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international.

McQuillan has been rallying since the late 1990s and has won Mid Antrim Championship titles five times in the past nine years; the early wins came in a modified Honda Civic, but the most recent – in 2011 – was in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII prepared by McGrath Motor Sports Ireland, which he will be shipping to Barbados.

Bought in 2009, the former Group N car has since been converted to clubman Group A, which will slot into the island’s Modified 8-A category. McQuillan says: “I have had a couple of overall wins, plus podium finishes – it has approximately 340 horsepower and we’re capable of setting times against early WRC cars up to, say, 2003.” For his Barbados debut, the Ulster farmer’s co-driver will be Neill Finlay, who sat with Glenn Campbell in his Nissan Micra Kit Car last year, when they finished second in Modified 5.

Donnelly started his competition career in the mid-1990s driving a Ford Mustang. A regular competitor in events on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, he has twice won the Atlantic Rally Cup in the United States. Champion in 2008 & ’09, he has been a regular podium finisher on events in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee and has won the Black River Stages in up-state New York three years in a row.

Over the Easter weekend, he and co-driver Colin Fitzgerald tackled the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, at which the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) enjoyed a major presence as the final element of its European promotion for Sol RB12. Donnelly and Fitzgerald, who is a former Junior Champion Co-driver in the Irish West Coast Rally Championship, were in the Evo IX in which they will contest Sol RB12; run by Liam Ryan, boss of Ryan Rally Preparations, the car is sponsored by Eire Concrete Inc.

The entries from McQuillan and Donnelly now posted on-line at www.rallybarbados.bb have brought to a total of six those from Ireland, which is among the most rally-centric countries in Europe. Details of further entries are yet to be confirmed, as competitors make preparations for the shipping date from the British south coast port of Portsmouth in a little over two weeks’ time.

Countdown steps up a gear with Valvoline Shakedown Stages

The countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2012, the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, steps up a gear on Sunday, May 6, with the Valvoline Shakedown Stages, round three of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Virgin Atlantic Driver’s and Class Championships.

In advance of entries opening next Monday (April 23), Sol RB12 Chairman Barry Gale was at pains to emphasise the importance of the event: “Local competitors new to Sol Rally Barbados are reminded of the ASRs, which state that those who have not driven in a special stage rally before are required to drive in at least one such event before being considered eligible for Sol RB12 . . . the Valvoline Shakedown Stages is the last chance to tick this box.”

Entries can be made on-line under the Competitor tab at www.barbadosrallyclub.com, or at Motorsport Services, Haggatt Hall, St Michael, where all entry fees must be paid before the closing time of 4.00pm on Friday, April 27. The running order will be published at the Briefing Meeting, which will be held at 7.00pm on Thursday, May 3, at the Barbados Clay Target Shooting Association Club House, Searles, Christ Church.

Scrutineering will be held between noon and 5.00pm at Automotive Art’s Welches premises on Saturday, May 5, with the start of the Valvoline Shakedown Stages slated for 9.00am the following day; the service area will be in the Pool Plantation Yard, St John, which will also be the venue for the start, lunch halt, finish and planned post-event social. Twelve stages are scheduled, at two venues – Society to Pool and Bonwell to Malvern – each of which will be used six times, with three runs in each direction.

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: Martin Donnelly on the Titanic SuperSpecial stage of the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally over Easter weekend by Pacenotes Rally Magazine

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