Roger Skeete, the most successful driver in the history of the Barbados Rally Club's premier event, is among the early entries received for Sol Rally Barbados 2010 in May.
The on-line entry facility, which opened a week before Christmas, is also providing welcome encouragement for the organisers against the background of the world's continuing economic challenges.
More than half the crews entered so far are from overseas and two of them are newcomers to the event.
“We brought forward the on-line entry date this year and, while it is obviously very early days, it is great to see the interest that is being generated outside the island, particularly in Europe,” Sol Rally Barbados chairman Barry Gale said. “Many people have been on holiday for much of the time since entries opened, so may not have had easy access to the Internet, but the total is already into double figures, including entries from the UK, Ireland and Canada.
“Better still, as well as familiar names from the recent past, who are taking advantage of the Anniversary incentives the Barbados Rally Club offered to our loyal overseas crews, there are new names on the list and that is in no small part thanks to the massive TV coverage the event attracts overseas every year.”
Skeete, however, is anything but a new name. In the event's 20-year history, his record of 10 victories stretches from the inaugural rally in 1990 through to 2004; he has won five times in a Peugeot 205GTi, once in a Peugeot 306 S16 and twice each in a Ford Escort Cosworth and Escort WRC. He has also claimed a further two podium finishes, in 1999 (second, in an Escort Cosworth) and 2007 (third, Escort WRC).
While his recent record on Rally Barbados does not reflect his early successes ˆ he has failed to finish four of the past five events, thwarted by various mechanical failures ˆ he remains a front-runner in island motor sport; the ex-Petter Solberg Michelin/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre/Warrens Motors
Subaru Impreza WRC S12 he now campaigns with co-driver Louis Venezia is more than up to the task.
In 2009, he won his debut event in the car - the Shell V-Power King of the Hill Shakedown‚ event ˆ then set the early pace the following weekend on Sol Rally Barbados, fastest on three of the first six stages.
While eventual winner, Kris Meeke (Subaru Impreza WRC S9), who won the other three stages, admitted he had 'never had to drive as hard as I did to keep up with Roger Skeete', the battle was soon to end; with a faulty battery, Skeete's car refused to start in service and he went over the maximum allowed lateness, dropping out of overall contention.
Worse was to come, however as - after three more stage wins in the afternoon - Skeete crashed on the second uphill Canefield stage and, while thankfully there were no injuries, the crew would not been seen again.
Sol Rally Barbados (May 28-30) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 23) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007; Sol RB10 marks the 20th Anniversary of the inaugural running of the Club's International All-Stage Rally.