Local crews making early plans for Rally Barbados

courtesy Barbados Rally Club/Image Vault: Pierre Clarke and Ezra Gibbs on their way to fourth place in First Citizens King of the Hill last year

Entries posted to date by local crews for Rally Barbados 2024 (May 31-June 2) comfortably exceed the number lodged this far ahead of the event in recent years. After 59 home-grown teams started RB23 – the highest number for a decade – RB24’s organisers are predicting another bumper year. Among them are two seasoned competitors, both of whom retired last year with engine failure and have spent the off season upgrading their cars to run in different classes.
  RB24 is the 34th edition of the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event which has its roots in the International All-Stage Rally of 1990; since then, the event has grown in stature to become the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International and a key component in the promotion of ‘Motorsport Island’. The Rally Show and King of the Hill (KotH), the final shakedown and seeding event, will be staged on May 25 and 26.
  Proudly campaigning Honda Civics, Pierre Clarke and Paul Inniss have competed against each other for 10 years, first in the Clubman class and, more recently, Modified 1, with Clarke also co-driver for Innis in RB14. Innis has seven Rally Barbados finishes to his credit, 36th his best overall position in 2018, when he came home third in M1 for the second year in a row, while Clarke’s best of three finishes in the six events he tackled before RB23 was 30th overall in 2022, when he was third in M1.
  Last year, however, was a different story. Problems started early for Inniss: “We had a catastrophic engine failure with the B16B just two weeks before King of the Hill, which forced us to search locally for a replacement. Of course, everyone was in a frenzy, but thanks to our sponsors, we were able to acquire enough parts to build a B18C engine, which we only completed two days before scrutineering.”
  The engine swap moved Innis up to SuperModified 2 for KotH and RB23 “to battle with the big boys” as he puts it. He says: “We were told by fellow competitors and those in the crowd that the car ran extremely well and was quick against the guys at KotH and we had another great performance at Bushy Park Friday night. But after SS2 on Saturday, we noticed some challenges with the engine which forced us to retire.”
  For the 2024 season, Inniss will stay in SM2, home to the island’s fastest two-wheel-drive cars, but with a different engine: “We are going K24 vtec, a more modern engine which has proven itself the world over. We believe with this platform we can return to the consistency the team and I are known for as well as increase our competitiveness in 2024 with the goal of winning the group at the end of the season.”
  Clarke is also switching classes, to Modified 2: “We had an engine failure second stage on Sunday morning of Rally Barbados and we had been battling issues all Saturday, but we were fighting desperately to make it to the end. We managed to get the car back up and running after Rally Barbados, did some testing and everything seemed to be fine. At the Ellesmere double-header, the motor blew on the second last run of the day, so we decided it was time to step up a group and acquired a K20 complete swap in November. We did a refresh of the engine and some minor stuff, everything is currently in the car just awaiting the electrician and we are also looking to purchase some new suspension once money permits. Fingers crossed, we will get some testing in March or so and Shakedown Stages will be our first event of the season.”

Rally Barbados 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 previous Sunday’s King of the Hill sprint, run under a similar arrangement, features four timed runs on a roughly four-kilometre stage, the results of which are used to seed the running order for the main event.

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