The countdown to Sol Rally Barbados 2009, the Caribbean's biggest
annual motor sport event, steps up a gear on Sunday, May 3 when the Barbados Rally Club (BRC) stages the Automotive Art Shakedown Stages . . . four weeks in advance of the 20th running of its blue riband event.

Slated for a 9.00am start from Automotive Art's premises at Welches, St Michael, the event will be contested over 10 stages in the north of the island; Black Bess will be the base for service between each loop of two stages, also the venue for the lunch halt, the finish and a post-event social for competitors, marshals, officials and spectators.

Entries will close at 4.00pm on Monday (April 27); the Briefing Meeting will take place at 7.00pm the same day at the Barbados Clay Target Shooting Association (BCTSA), following which the entry list will be published.

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The Automotive Art Shakedown Stages, which is round three of the BRC's Virgin Atlantic Driver's and Class Championships, is a key element of the build-up to Sol RB09 for a number of reasons:

+ it is the first chance for the year for competitors to enjoy a full
day's sport on tarmac

+ first-time competitors intending to compete in Sol RB09 must enter
this event in order to be eligible, so a number crews will be
contesting a BRC event for the very first time

+ it provides an opportunity for the organising team to check out all

+ it also provides a few clues as to what might happen in Sol RB09

The BRC anticipates a bumper entry for this year's event, including the first chance for island fans to see Paul Bourne, Roger Hill, Trevor Manning and Roger Skeete in action in the same event; the entries received on-line for Sol RB09 already include a number of newcomers, so quality and quantity should be the order of the day.

Next week's event is of particular importance from an organisational standpoint: the steady growth of Rally Barbados in recent years, and its burgeoning image and reputation worldwide, has required the BRC to become ever-more professional in its organisation, without losing the special appeal of relaxed motor sport in the region.

Sol RB09 Chairman Barry Gale notes: "This event is of supreme importance to Sol Rally Barbados - in every aspect, it is a dry run for our premier event, because it allows all of the officials to practice, and therefore fully understand, their roles for Sol RB09. This cannot be understated; we often have a turn-over of officials from one year to the next and, while it is easy to understand in principle what is expected of you, until you are submerged in the physical running of the event, you cannot always anticipate the issues that will come your way.

"Even for seasoned officials, next weekend is important - they probably need to dust out the cobwebs, learn some more about new competitors and their cars, and of course make sure the equipment they use is working as expected."