Steve Perez is the first confirmed European entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2009 - and the 2004 UK National Rally champion is a man on a mission after missing out on a top-three slot for the third year in a row in 2008.

Although his first visit to Barbados ended in disaster when his ex-Hannu Mikkola Audi Quattro Sport suffered accident damage in Rally Barbados 2004, Perez soon developed a fondness for Barbados and its people.

Indeed like many introduced to the island through rallying, he is now a regular visitor and returned home on Saturday after his annual New Year holiday, enjoyed with a large family group in an exclusive West Coast location.

Before he left, he confirmed that he will be back with his Kick Energy Ford Focus RS WRC, co-driven for the first time in Barbados by Welshman Paul Spooner, with whom he finished 19th in the final round of the 2008 World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, in December.

Since 2006, Perez has taken a hat-trick of fourth places in Barbados - and been the highest-placed European finisher twice - but now he wants gold.

"I'm certainly not coming to defend fourth place, but I think the job's going to be even harder this year," he stated. "There's the two Focus WRCs from Jamaica with Gary Gregg and Jeff Panton, and the Imprezas of Paul Bourne and Roger Skeete - they've all won the rally before, so I've got my work cut out.

"And then my old mate Paul Bird - he said he was retiring after Barbados last year - but no such luck. The last time I spoke to him, he said he's coming back. Even if I don't win, I've still got to make sure I finish in front of 'Birdy' this time and I won't be lending him any of my scrubbed-in tyres this year, either, he can definitely bring his own!"