1997 - 2006 World Stage
By the time the Club’s fifth decade began, the Texaco Havoline International Stages Rally had become its premier event, eclipsing the June Rally; there was steady growth of overseas interest, not just from the region, but from further afield . . . despite the fact that winning would not be easy.
In the seven years since the inaugural event, only two drivers had done so – local hero Roger Skeete had clocked up five victories, always in a Peugeot 205 GTi, while Ireland’s Kenny McKinstry had snatched the other two, in 1993 driving a Subaru Legacy RS with fellow-countryman Robbie Philpott and then 1996 co-driven by Bajan Sean Gill, in a Ford Escort RS2000.
Interest in more structured regional competition, and the securing of sponsorship from shipping company Tecmarine, brought about the Caribbean Rally Championship, which ran for three seasons from 1997, until a down-turn in the world economy brought about its demise.
Each season, the Championship opened with the Texaco, followed in the first year by events in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago; Guadeloupe was added to the calendar in year two, then Martinique in the final year. Even with the backing of a friendly shipping company, fitting these rallies into a five-month period in the middle of each country’s own national calendar was fraught with problems; key among these was the chance of competitors being disadvantaged in home events, through running out of time to repair mechanical or bodywork damage experienced abroad.
The Jamaicans did most of the winning in the Caribbean series, although highlights for Barbados included Skeete’s joint third place in 1997 with Gary Gregg, behind Jamaicans Doug Gore and David Summerbell, Roger Hill’s 1600 title the same year, while Trevor Manning won Group N in 1998.
In essence, the brief existence of the Caribbean Championship did not have any profound effect on the story of The Texaco – Skeete started the decade with his sixth victory (Michael Gill second for a fourth time), this time in a Peugeot 306 S16, and went on to win another four by 2004, with co-driver and engineer Dave Crawford there every time. The Peugeot did only one Texaco, replaced by a Ford Escort Cosworth, which morphed into an Escort WRC.
The third winner of The Texaco was Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton in 1998, co-driven in his ex-works Toyota Celica GT4 by John De Mercado; with another four Jamaican crews in the top 10, it is not a year that Barbados remembers fondly, but at least Paul Bourne/Louis Venezia and Trevor Manning/Michael Ward claimed the other two podium places, in the absence – at the finish – of Skeete, following diff failure.
Manning’s new Evo V would prove to be his most successful car – after winning in 1999, he placed second for the next two years, with Bourne third, also maintaining a consistent challenge. And Bourne was to become the fifth winner of the Club’s premier event, although in somewhat strange circumstances.
Read More in 0-50: The Barbados Rally Club, 1957-2007.
Written by Robin Bradford.
To purchase this book, please contact the Barbados Rally Club.