Historic trio from the UK head for Rally Barbados

courtesy John Crisp, Scotland’s Robin Hamilton is bringing his ‘new’ Ford Escort MkI to Rally Barbados for the first time

Forty-five years after starting his rallying career in a Ford Escort MkI, two-time Scottish Tarmac Champion Robin Hamilton will give his recently completed ‘new’ MkI its toughest test yet in Rally Barbados 2024 (May 31-June 2). He is one of three UK entries confirmed today (Friday) for the event’s Historic classes, alongside fellow returnees Chris Shooter (Escort MkII) and Mick Smith (Sunbeam Imp).

  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.
  The Gleaner Oils and Gas Escort is the fourth rally car Hamilton and wife Vanessa, herself a three-time top female co-driver in the STC, have taken to the island since their first trip in 2017 to mark their 10th wedding anniversary. There have been class wins in a Talbot Sunbeam Ti and MG Metro 6R4 (with Steve McNulty the co-driver in 2018), then third in class and a best overall result of 41st in their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus in 2022.
  Since then, they have been busy rallying in the UK together, while Robin and Philip Sandham finished last November’s gruelling Roger Albert Clark Rally 66th overall and third in class in the Sunbeam Lotus. The Escort, which will run in the up to 1600cc Historic 1 class, has only done a couple of events and some light testing since it was built, so Hamilton is looking forward to stretching its legs on King of the Hill and RB24.
  And he will have some competition in H1, where Smith’s 1040cc Imp was the only entry last year. Although Irish by birth, Smith and wife Jackie live in southern England but he retains close ties with his home country as one of the founder members of the London Irish Motor Club. In a rallying career lasting 40 years, in a Sunbeam Ti, Hillman Avengers and the Rover Metro GTi Challenge, he has an impressive list of championship, overall and class wins to his credit in the UK and Belgium. He was persuaded to enter Rally Barbados last year by Ian Barclay, whose son Cameron was co-driver in the Imp, which attracted a huge fan base – and some local sponsorship from Rentokil Barbados – encouraging him to return this year.
  As Cameron is not available this year, Smith will have experienced driver and co-driver Andy Darlington on the notes in the Imp, which was built as a replica of the last 1960s works rally Imp and finished in the distinctive Rootes factory blue. After meeting Darlington for the first time earlier this month, Smith said: “We had an immediate rapport and realised we have a lot of mutual friends both rally and personal, so it was a really fruitful meet. Andy is an experienced guy both as navigator and driver and I’m really looking forward to this now.”
  For Shooter and his co-driver and partner Bev LeGood, this year marks the 10th Anniversary of what was meant to be one-off trip to Rally Barbados 2014. Ahead of their eighth trip to compete, LeGood says: “I can’t believe how many rallies and holidays we’ve now had, when it was a one-off bucket list tick to celebrate my big birthday . . . so there’s another big birthday later this year. We’ve met lots of fabulous people both from Barbados and in the rallying world who are always so happy to see us come back.”
  Shooter and LeGood have been rallying together for more than 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. Their trips to Barbados with the Sparrowhill Cars Escort have netted three class wins and a best overall result of 27th, which came last year.

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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