1977 - 86 Rallying Round
The third decade of the Barbados Rally Club’s existence opened rather quietly, with the effects of the fuel crisis being felt; this was to prove a temporary setback, however – as the Club approached its Silver Jubilee, things started to pick up.
The June Rally had certainly suffered; the high point of entries running into the 50s was long gone, with numbers now more normally hovering around 20, or even lower – the first of the Club’s new decade in 1977, for instance, had just 17 starters and, for the first time since 1964, it was also without a sponsor.
Despite this, there was still a decent battle between the more experienced drivers and navigators and the younger members, who were working hard to raise their game. Ronald Vieira and Donald Porter, who fell firmly in the former category, won the 1977 event in a Fiat 128, while veterans John Sealy and Bill Mallialieu returned to the winner's enclosure the following year in a Fiat 127 – in so doing, they became the only crew to have swapped roles and won the event, Sealy having navigated in Mallalieu’s Alfa Romeo in 1967.
One of the rising young stars of navigation at the time was Garry Clarke, who had been benefitting from the work of the somewhat controversial GIN Club; having finished second on his first June Rally (in 1973, with Peter Lewis), Clarke had established a successful partnership with Don Hunte, finishing in the top four more than once, before winning in a Skoda Estelle in 1979, then notching up a second consecutive victory in 1980, the first year the event was sponsored by Rothmans. At the time, former Chairman Trevor Gale described their successes as: “a supremacy that is as great as, or greater than, Richard Cummins and Richard Rose or John Allamby and Michael Mahon.” Indeed, up to that date, Allamby and Mahon were the only other partnership to have won the June Rally two years in a row; after their victories in 1971-72, they did not enter the 1973 event, so missed out on the opportunity of a hat-trick; so, could Hunte and Clarke set another new June Rally record?
Rothmans was already well-known in the wider motor sport world through sponsorship of events such as the World Championship Acropolis Rally in Greece and individual drivers such as Ari Vatanen, and the Club’s relationship with the local arm of the company had already started to spark a revival in the event’s fortunes, the entry for 1980 back up to the mid-20s. On top of that, Gale was invited back to set the Silver Jubilee June Rally in 1981, as some felt that the rallies had been a little ‘tame’ of late . . . and the return of The Chairman meant competitors could look forward to an extremely demanding route, almost certainly with high average speeds to be dealt with.
And that is just what they got! The previous seven rallies had been limited to 300 miles, but the 25th running shot back up to 542, just 50 or so miles short of the longest-ever June Rally, run back in 1971. As John Sealy said to the Barbados Advocate after the prize-giving: “In the night, when it was supposed to be cool, it was hot; in the day when it was supposed to be very hot, it wasn’t” . . . and the veteran driver was not talking about temperature, but about pace!
Read More in 0-50: The Barbados Rally Club, 1957-2007.
Written by Robin Bradford.
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