Powell and Fennell finish second in NACAM opener

British rally engineer John Hardman will compete in Sol Rally Barbados (June 9/10) for the fifth time in 2012, as part of a three-car contingent from Wales, which brings to 25 the number of International crews now confirmed on the on-line entry list at www.rallybarbados.bb.

Born in Northern Ireland and based in Wales, Hardman won Group B on his debut in RB04 in the John Hardman Engineering Ford Fiesta 4wd; this year, he drives the same Ford Escort MkII, borrowed from nephew, ‘Dangerous Brian’ Hardman, which he used to finish third in SuperModified 10 in 2008. His co-driver in the Ian Rogers Bodyshop/AVO UK/PEC Tyres/Star Products/All Terrain/Chicken Pen Racing/Carole’s Cakes/Brian Hardman Builders and DTA Engine Management Systems-backed car, Welshman Sean Buckley, competes in Barbados for the first time after several visits to spectate.

Hardman won his class every time out last year in his Nissan Micra, the car which Bajan James Betts drove in last year’s Trackrod Rally in the UK; that car is also shipping to Barbados, where Hardman has made many friends, and found new customers.

Hardman took Gary Thomas and Phil Ralphs along to RB05, when they finished second in SM12 in a Mk II Escort, with Hardman-built Vauxhall engine; on their return in 2010, the Welsh crew retired. Thomas’s rally car rental business, Tsalta Motorsport, has restricted the former Welsh Road Rally and Tarmac Stage Champion’s rallying of late, while co-driver Ralphs has been busy organising events. Whichever car from the Tsalta fleet they bring, it will be backed by Cambrian Garages/Cambrian Land Rover.

England’s Stuart Deeley will compete for the first time, having learned of the event from Hardman, and travelled out in 2007. Three-time Association of North West Car Clubs (ANWCC) Stage Champion, most recently last year in his unique Lotus Europa – another Hardman creation – he will drive the Micra, backed by Demon Tweeks. His co-driver will be Alistair Dodd, also English, but living in Wales; he won three ANWCC titles last year, including Junior Co-Driver, and has sat with both Deeley and Hardman.

Powell and Fennell finish second in NACAM opener

Sol Rally Barbados regulars John Powell and Mike Fennell Jnr overcame extreme odds – they didn’t even have a rally car three hours before the start – to finish second in Puebla, Mexico, last weekend (April 20/21) in Rally Canadas, round one of the FIA NACAM Rally Championship.

For Powell, who represents his adopted homeland Trinidad & Tobago, it continues a fine vein of form, following victories in Jamaica last December and Trinidad in March in his Subaru Impreza WRC S14; fellow-Jamaican Fennell finished second in Trinidad, with regular driver Jeff Panton (Ford Focus WRC06).

For the NACAM events – there are five more rounds – Powell is driving a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, run by Dom Buckley Motorsport (DBM) from the UK, with Jamaica’s Peter Clarke bringing experience of the championship, in which few English-speaking Caribbean crews compete, and the language to his role as team manager.

After walking through the Friday night Ceremonial Start with the Evo not yet released by Customs, Powell and Fennell had to wait until nearly 5.00am for it to arrive; the DBM crew gave it a quick check, while another regular UK visitor, Phil Marks, mapped the engine. Powell had his work cut out, facing the Evo IX of Mexico’s Ricardo Trivino, who has not only been in the World Rally Championship since 2002, but was also on home ground, so better prepared for temperature, humidity and altitude.

The Caribbean crew’s luck went from bad to worse, with no working intercom nearly all day – they relied on hand signals – no lunchtime service as the crew was delayed, then a fan failure, causing the engine to overheat. After six of the seven stages, however, they were reunited with service crew and intercom.

At nearly 29 kilometres, the final stage was easily the longest, around one-fifth of the distance . . . with everything working, Powell beat the local ace by 23 seconds to secure second place. Trivino won in 1h 28m 55.6s, with Powell 1m 11.1s behind.

Powell said: “Stage 7 proved that Ricardo is catchable, and we held back since he was on his home turf. His lines were perfect and you couldn’t help but simply follow them. It will be interesting to see how things turn out on neutral ground.”

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

James Betts preparing to contest last year’s Trackrod Rally in the UK in the John Hardman Engineering Nissan Micra, which newcomer Stuart Deeley will drive in Sol Rally Barbados 2012

Gary Thomas in action in his Ford Escort G3 on Sol Rally Barbados 2010
Photo Sean Chandler/vtcaribbean.com



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