Roger Hill

Roger Hill

Quiet and thoughtful but consistent and successful

Solid is one of the most appropriate words to describe the ex-Team Toyota Europe Celica GT4 of Roger ‘Ninja’ Hill, and the same word can be used to cover his approach to rallying. Rarely does a major event go by without Hill referring to the time-honoured adage ‘to finish first, first you must finish.

A thoughtful driver, Hill is in some ways the ‘Invisible Man’ of Bajan motor sport; while the daring and flamboyance of drivers like Paul Bourne and Trevor Manning becomes the talking point at the end of the day, Hill methodically gets on with the job of getting results . . . and the statistics reveal that he is rather good at it.

In the 17-year history of Rally Barbados, formerly ‘The Texaco’, he has finished in the top 10 on no fewer than 11 occasions – a record beaten only by 10-times winner Roger Skeete; since buying the Celica from Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton seven years ago, Hill has failed to finish in the top six only once, and has won his class for the last four years in a row . . . and no-one can even begin to claim a finishing record like that.

Initially a navigator, he started driving in the early 1980s, first in a Ford Escort, then a Hillman Avenger, before switching to Toyota in 1986, where he has remained ever since – these days, he is boss of the island’s Toyota dealer, Nassco. His career has encompassed circuit racing, with considerable success at Bushy Park and in Guyana, where he was Group Champion Driver on his 1991 visit, speed events and rallying; as well as his enviable record in Barbados, he won the 1600cc class of the Caribbean Rally Championship in 1997, and has twice finished in the top five in Rally Jamaica.

A modest character, Hill would be the first to insist that his success be shared, not only with his co-driver since 2001, Graham Gittens, but also his service crew and the Celica, affectionately know as ‘De Tank’. Seven days before Rally Barbados 2006, De Tank was lying on its roof after rolling out of the International RallySprint, when a tyre shredded. It is an indication of how he is regarded in island motor sport that, even before Hill got to the workshop on Monday morning, a group of friends had joined his mechanics and stripped the car, ready for replacement panels; it was running again within 72 hours, looking a little the worse for wear, but ready to fight – and win – another day.

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