UK drivers’ nod to history at Sol Rally Barbados

Mick Smith in action in his faithful recreation of a 1960s Sunbeam Imp

State-of the-art modern rally cars may be battling for overall honours in the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, but there is always a nod to the history of rallying in the entry list for Sol Rally Barbados. The last three UK entries for this year’s event confirmed today (Wednesday) reflect three very different eras of rallying, from the 1960s through the ‘70s and into the early days of four-wheel-drive in the ‘80s.
  Newcomer Mick Smith is shipping his immaculate recreation of a factory Sunbeam Imp, which earned its reputation in competition when Rosemary Smith and ‘Tiny’ Lewis finished first and second overall in the 1965 Tulip Rally, then went on to win a hat-trick of British Saloon Car Championship titles (1970-‘72) in the hands of Bill McGovern. Winner of Historic 2 after an epic battle in Sol RB22, Chris Shooter returns with his 1970s Ford Escort MkII, built to UK Historic spec, while Stuart Deeley brings his period FINA-liveried Toyota Celica GT4 ST165 for the second time.
  Sol RB23, the 33rd running of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event, will start with a floodlit SuperSpecial at Bushy Park Barbados on Friday, June 9, with two days of action in the northern and eastern parishes culminating in a daylight SuperSpecial and Rally Finish back at the St Philip facility on Sunday. The Rally Show and First Citizens King of the Hill will be staged on the previous weekend, June 3 & 4.
  Although Irish, Smith and wife Jackie now live in southern England but he retains close ties with his home country as Chairman of the London Irish Motor Club, launched in 2006 with Ollie O’Donovan, who also makes his island debut this year, as one of the founder members. Having heard of Rally Barbados from many friends over the years, Smith was finally persuaded to make the trip by Ian Barclay, who finished second in Modified 4 last year on his debut with son Cameron in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI; Barclay and Smith share a garage in the UK and will be servicing together in Barbados.
  As Barclay’s wife Sue Plater is co-driving this year, Cameron will be in the Imp, as Smith explains: “For my new adventure I have 21-year-old Cameron Barclay sitting in with me, fresh from his uni exams. He is only finishing the day before we travel. He did the event last year with his dad Ian and fell in love with the island, but it will be a massive difference between the Evo and an Imp driven by an old codger.”
  Built by Fenn Lane Motorsport as a replica of the last works rally Imp, Smith’s car started life as a bare metal 1972 shell, which was oven-baked and acid-dipped, then fully seam welded and strengthened and finished in the Rootes factory blue. The 1040cc engine was built by Imp experts Shrigley Engineering, develops around 100 bhp and drives through a close-ratio gearbox; the car has a bespoke wiring loom and hand-built dashboard accurate to the works cars.
  Smith has been competing since 1984, first in a self-prepared Sunbeam TI, before moving on to Hillman Avengers – he’s had more than 20 of those – Imps and a Volvo 142; he also competed in the Rover Metro GTi championship. With an impressive list of championship, overall and class wins to his credit in the UK and Belgium, he rallies now purely for fun, often co-driven by fellow Kerryman, journalist Sean Moriarty, who himself competed in Barbados in 2014 in Brendan Brosnan’s rear-wheel-drive Peugeot 205.
  After Harold Morley’s Porsche 911 dropped out of the running last year, the Historic 2 class became a battle between overseas visitors, Shooter and co-driver/partner Bev LeGood claiming the win by just 5.93secs from Sean Kukula and Emma Arthur’s similar car. Shooter and LeGood have been rallying together for 30 years, regular competitors in the British Historic Rally Championship (BHRC) from 2006 to 2011, winning their class in 2008 and collecting the Shekhar Mehta ‘Spirit of Rallying’ Award the following year. They rally less these days, but Barbados has become a regular trip, this their seventh, with only one DNF and a best result of 28th overall and the International Historic class win on their first outing in 2014.
  Stuart Deeley is on his sixth visit and his second with family friend Andy Doano, who thought he had ticked Rally Barbados off his bucket list last year . . . but clearly hadn’t! With three Association of North West Car Clubs (ANWCC) titles under his belt, in 2000, ‘02 (Ford Escort MkII) and ‘11 (Lotus 62S), Deeley’s first trip was in 2007, travelling to help legendary preparation wizard John Hardman. He then finished 35th overall in Sol RB12, winning M5 in one of Hardman’s Nissan Micras, crashed out the following year in his Lotus, then finished two events in a Celica GT4 205. Last year, he arrived with the 165 formerly owned by Swedish rally driver Ove Andersson as a road car, which proved temperamental with a non-start in King of the Hill, and non-finish in Sol RB22.

Sol Rally Barbados (June 9-11) is a tarmac rally, with around 20 special stages run on the island’s intricate network of public roads, under road closure orders granted by the Ministry of Transport, Works & Water Resources; the First Citizens King of the Hill ‘shakedown’ (June 4), runs under a similar arrangement and features four timed runs on a roughly four-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for Sol RB23.

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