Welsh rally legend Phil Collins, once described by triple Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna as "a nut-case", will treat Caribbean motor sport fans to a demonstration of why the late Brazilian superstar might have thought that when he contests the region's biggest annual motor sport event, Sol Rally Barbados, in May.
Collins is the first new high-profile entry to be confirmed by the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) in advance of the 20th running of its blue riband event; he and regular co-driver, Ireland's Derek Brannigan, will contest the SuperModified 11 class in a Ford Escort Mk II, which Collins describes as "a fairly specialised rally car" and Britain's Motorsport News
called "wild" in a report last year.
Built in 2006 by Quick Motorsport and backed by Silverstone Tyres, Millington Engines, Great Stuff Caterers, Orchard Motorsport, Collins Engineering and Pontilas Developments, its 2.5-litre engine produces a little over 300bhp; the bright red Escort is a popular sight in the UK, as Collins snaps at the heels of World Rally Cars on iconic tarmac events like the Manx National in the Isle of Man and the Rally of the Lakes and the West Cork Rally in Ireland.
The encounter between Collins and Senna came courtesy of the now defunct magazine Cars & Car Conversions
, missed by enthusiasts the world over, including in Barbados, thanks to its supportive coverage of island motor sport for more than 20 years. In 1986, CCC arranged for the JPS Grand Prix driver to test some rally cars in Wales.
Having only seen rally cars on television, his first experience came in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth driven by 1985 Securicor Sierra Challenge winner Collins, recruited to provide some basic instruction.
After the first run, Senna said: "Too quick for me. He's a nut-case!" In response, Collins said: "It's a pity it's so rough out there or I could really scare him - of course, the problem is he's about to get his revenge."
Once he'd taken Collins for a couple of runs, Senna drove four other cars, including Harry Hockly's CCC-backed Vauxhall Nova Sport and a Clubman-spec MG Metro 6R4, after which he said: "It has been much more exciting than I expected. I didn't feel the time going by because I was finding out, learning more and going harder and harder."
That was during the first of two distinct periods in the rallying career of Collins. Having started in 1978 in an Escort RS2000, he switched to Opel, first an Ascona then a Manta, before the Sierra Cosworth in 1985; he was a front-running works driver in the UK, second in the National Championship twice, the BTRDA Forest Championship three times, and fourth in the Open Championship twice.
Co-driven by Roger Freeman, his Manta was also 14th of the 62 survivors in the 1985 Lombard RAC Rally (his only finish in six attempts) - 155 crews started what is remembered as one of the WRC's toughest-ever events, with 63 stages, nearly 550 miles on snow and ice, and two 36-hour loops.