Barbados is how regional rallying should be

Published on Wednesday September 27 2017

The reaction to what happened on the Rally Isle of Man was awful last week. People left, right and centre ­– many of whom weren’t even at the event – criticising and even blaming issues from the rally on the drivers of the British Rally Championship, which is the last place any blame should be going.

Anyway, more about that in MN this week.

But why am I still banging on about that? It’s because something like that wouldn’t happen in Barbados, the subject of a feature in this week’s Motorsport News, out today.

The feature outlines the mass of European – and specifically British and Irish – crews to compete on the island. And it’s easy to see why.

Harking back to the Manx, the glass is very much full in comparison in the Caribbean. The rally is celebrated like the major international event it is seen as by some. The fans, spectators and crews get behind the event, and it creates the most incredible atmosphere.

Barbados rally attracts a lot of foreign visitors. Pic: Nicholas Bhajan

On arriving at the island this year, local competitor Neil Armstrong took me for dinner (I instantly identified him as a rally man as his Toyota truck had a world rally team sticker from the same marque on the flatbed… epic) and while we sat and ate the local delicacy, souse – a pickled pork dish – it was a conversation of the love of the sport, and of the hate that he wasn’t campaigning his Toyota Starlet on this year’s event!

The Rally Barbados bug is one that bites hard.

Never have I felt so welcome at an event, and that’s because the residents on the island understand the benefit of the rally and what it can do for an island economy, gaining an influx of foreigners coming to spend some hard-earned cash.

Perhaps the best part about the event is the machinery, like turning up on a national rally in the UK in the mid-80s. There’s some of the most spectacular creations, from 200-plus bhp Minis with sequential ’boxes to screaming Honda Civics to World Rally Cars.

There’s always drama on the short, but technical, stages. Pic: Nicholas Bhajan

Whatever you think of the length of the stages – which are short, six or seven kilometres on average – these boys and girls go hard and it’s more competitive than people give it credit.

It truly is a bucket list event and I’m not surprised it reaches the lips of everyone from clubmen to international rally stars – Kris Meeke won the event twice in 2008 and 2009.

So, if you get the chance, it’s one you really must go to.

Pick up today’s MN for a more in-depth piece on the event.

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