British crews boost 4wd entry for Rally Barbados

courtesy Richard Armon, British newcomer Nik Elsmore has enjoyed a successful career in Mitsubishi Lancer Evos

Former British Trials and Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) Champion Nik Elsmore will finally tick a rallying ‘bucket list’ item when he competes in Rally Barbados 2024 (May 31-June 2). Elsmore is one of four UK competitors confirmed today, bringing the number of cars entered in the 4wd classes to 16, with more in the pipeline in the coming weeks.
  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.
  Elsmore’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, backed by CDS Taxis, Calico Interiors and Health Care 21 Group, will run in Modified 4, along with UK returnees Peter Gallagher (Evo VI) and Chris Surman (Subaru Impreza N12B), while Fraser Louden is also confirmed today in his WRC class Evo Proto.
  Between them, Elsmore and his father Graham, known as the ‘King of the Dean’, have won the iconic Wyedean Forest Rally five times, Nik most recently in 2009, with a further five podium finishes, showcasing their expertise in the Forest of Dean, close to their home. A SEAT Super Six finalist in 1997 and Ford Rally Champion of the Future finalist the following year, Nik was the British Rally Championship Class A7 Winner in 1999, the same year he won the BTRDA title.
  During 2001, Elsmore entered many Belgian tarmac events and WRC rallies in Europe including Corsica, Finland, Germany and Sweden, along with four outings on Rally GB, with a best finish of 20th Overall and class second in 2004. A regular podium finisher in the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge until retiring in 2010, Nik said: “During my career, I have often heard about Rally Barbados and while I always wished to make the journey, it clashed with other rally commitments until now.”
  Now out of retirement and competing in selected events which are family favourites, the Elsmore team are travelling in a family group, with Graham as Team Manager and wife Jo as Head Chef, along with co-driver Pauline Nash, whose husband Brian will be aiding Jo in the kitchen, Nik’s wife Amie and mechanics Dan and Buster. Nash sat with Nik to finish third on the Wyedean last year, her first return to action after a major crash with another driver on the 2019 Wyedean which cracked a bone in her back. Reigniting her passion for rallying, a selection of outings this season is planned with Elsmore.
  Texas-based Scotsman Louden returns for the sixth time to an event he looks forward to each year, although he has failed to finish since 2019 in his Evo Proto. He is keen for seat time after an early retirement last year with suspension failure in Dark Hole on Saturday morning, so will enter April’s Shakedown Stages with Scottish co-driver Ashleigh Will, back for her fifth visit. Although Louden has been inactive since then, Will has been busy with events back home, including finishing fourth in February’s Knockhill Stages in an Evo VI with Barry Groundwater, whom she has also sat with in Barbados.
  In 2020, Louden and Will looked set to maintain his 100 per cent finishing record until he struck the Vaucluse Raceway chicane one corner from the finish, losing what would have been his highest overall finish, 11th. On his first visit in 2015, the former Scottish Rally Championship class-winner (2006, Ford Puma 1600) was dubbed the ‘King of the wild rides’ after an excursion into the trees on KotH, then rolled on the same event two years later in his Evo IX. He finished Rally Barbados in both years, however, 25th and then 31st, before claiming his best result to date, 23rd, in his current Evo in 2019.
  For his third visit, Surman has enlisted local co-driver Kareem Gaskin for the Ignition Motorsport/Top Performance/Warmstyle Developments Impreza. With two overall finishes to his credit, 45th in 2019, then 25th in 2020, Surman is keen to add a third in his current car. The Impreza started life as a Prodrive factory-built Group N tarmac car, but has been upgraded to UK B13 class spec, so now slots in to M4.
  Ireland’s Peter Gallagher will be competing for the 16th time, his fifth in the Evo VI in which he has yet to claim an overall finish. With his local co-driver Rene Forde, all had seemed set in 2022, lying 36th overall until hitting trouble three stages from home. With the Service Park and the SuperSpecial at Bushy Park, however, he was well placed to reappear, setting an impressive time good enough for 16th overall on the final stage.

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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