Double Barbados Rally Club Group N champion Neil Armstrong secured a top 20 finish on his outing on Rallye Sunseeker, the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship.

Running in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII carrying livery to support the 2009 Sol Rally Barbados, Armstrong and co-driver Max Ferri held 24th overall after the opening night of the event, which saw stage action halted following a major accident that left a driver trapped in his car and a street light damaged.

As the second day of the event progressed, Armstrong worked his way slowly up the order, in part through the problems experienced by his competitors and also through his own determination. He earned the cheers of the crowd on stage six, when he demolished the wall of straw bales at the popular ninety-right in front of Somerley House, by which time he had progressed to 22nd overall.

Among his ambitions was to finish higher than the same car had achieved in 2008, when Miles Johnston finished 19th. By the second service, mid-afternoon on Saturday, he had matched that position, and that was how it seemed set to stay. A big effort on the final stage of the day however, when he was 16th fastest overall, saw Armstrong promoted two slots up the order to 17th.

"I can't even begin to explain the experience," he said after finishing ninth in class. "It's like my first rally again, a whole completely new experience.

"I can compare rallying in Barbados to track racing - you know the roads, you know what you're doing, you just drive it without notes. This is a whole different skill altogether. I need to come back and do some more."

Two of the most enthusiastic supporters of Rally Barbados, Steve Perez and Paul Bird, failed to finish the event, with Perez going off the road and Bird suffering an electrical problem.

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