Following confirmation from last year's Sol Rally Barbados Group N winner, Ryan Champion, that he is stepping up to Group A this year with his iconic ex-Piero Liatti Subaru Impreza 555, the production category is certain to have a different winner in 2009...and another British pairing hope to add their names to that roll of honour.
England's Rob Swann and Welsh co-driver Darren Garrod will be making their second attempt on the Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport event; they finished 15th overall and fourth in Group N last year in a Subaru Impreza N12, but are aiming higher in 2009.
This year, Swann will bring his current Impreza N14 in which he contested the second half of the British Rally Championship last year and finished second in Group N and highest-placed overseas competitor in the popular Tour of Flanders in mainland Europe in September.
Supported by Revolution Competition Wheels, his principal sponsor in Britain, and Escape Hotels in Barbados, Swann is confident of a better result this year.
In 2008, he missed Shell V-Power King of the Hill as he was still in the UK, giving his N14 its debut on the Jim Clark Rally; his stage times there were good, but he had a monumental accident towards the end of the event, although he still made it to the finish in a very crumpled Impreza. He was soon on a flight to Barbados where, within a week, he was in the Group N running on the Saturday of Sol RB08, splitting the battling Champion and local Group N Champion Geoff Noel (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) more than once, despite not having seen the stages before and still feeling sore from the previous weekend's accident. A brush with a wall after sliding off on some oil on Sunday's opening stage, however, cost him both time and confidence and he slipped out of a top three class result.
Despite all that, he is fired up for a return in 2009: "I was back in Barbados in February for a couple of weeks' holiday and met up with a few rally folk, which refuelled my love of the rally. As well as competing for the Revolution team in the BRC again this year, we're also attending a few tarmac events in Europe if all goes to plan - I know a return to Flanders is confirmed after our great result last year."
And Swann has no intention of missing Shell V-Power King of the Hill this year, either: "I will be dropping the Jim Clark Rally for the BRC, as I want to be in Barbados for King of the Hill, so Geoff Jones will step in to the Revolution team for the Jim Clark."
Swann's opposition in what is known locally as Production 4 will again include Noel, but the visitor is looking for a top result: "We have made good progress with developing the N14 from its early stages of last season, when things were still a bit new. We loved the rally so much last year and have some unfinished business - we want to win Group N this year, now we have sampled the stages!"