After a visit to the Roger Clark RallySprint circuit at Silverstone in 1997 by Greg Cozier and Spencer Hutchinson, it was obvious that Barbados needed a similar RallySprint facility, for driver entertainment as well as improved spectator access to the rapidly growing Bajan sport of rallying.
A traditional special-stage site at Vaucluse Plantation was chosen, along the Hangman Hill to Canefield road and 50m from the finishing point of Barbados’ first rally in 1957; the spiritual home of Bajan rallying. Ground-breaking followed in July 2000.
The first RallySprint event at Vaucluse Raceway was organised by the Barbados Rally Club on August 13th, 2000.
There were forty-six local competitors, three from St. Vincent and one from UK. Spectator turnout was greater than expected and they witnessed rally drivers and cars performing at a level of speed and commitment not possible on closed public roads or cane-field cart-tracks.
The Caribbean’s first RallySprint event was an overwhelming success!
At the beginning of 2001, the then Minister of Tourism The Hon. Noel Lynch, was approached with a proposal to turn Bajan motor sport into a tourist attraction. A case was made that, if it was no more expensive to travel to Barbados with a rally car than it was to travel here with golf clubs, motor sport in Barbados could be a self-sustaining tourism product.
A deal was struck and the Barbados Rally Carnival was born! Under Irishman Alan Tyndall’s RPM Productions direction, this event was reported to over nine million people in UK and Europe and Barbados’ motor sport future was changed forever.
In 2006 the Barbados Rally Carnival event format was replicated to create the Barbados RallyCross International, again with the support of the Barbados Tourism Authority. In 2010 the format was again replicated to create the Barbados Historic Rally Carnival which was also supported by Barbados Gov’t.
In 2015, during the peak of Barbados’ economic crisis, a completely new motorsport formula for affordable BMW 318Ti Compacts called BimmaCup was introduced at Vaucluse Raceway. This Championship has spread throughout the Caribbean and recently started in the United Kingdom.
On August 15th this year, Vaucluse Raceway will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary with a RallySprint event starting at 1pm. Celebrations start the previous weekend, August 8th, with a rally car show at Worthing Square from 3pm to 6pm.
Club president Ryan Wood gives some background: “Obviously COVID-19 put the brakes on everyone’s motor sport season but our management committee has already met fourteen times this year to plan this twentieth anniversary event carefully and safely in accordance with gov’t protocols. We’ve done major maintenance and improvement work to the track with the help of our newest sponsor INFRA and we are in better shape now than ever.”
As well as the usual varied groups of rally cars, including several new R5 cars, there will be eighteen BimmaCup cars. One of them will be driven by Barbados Karting Association champion Adam Mallalieu and three will be piloted by popular drivers Sean Gill, Neil Armstrong and Jason Parkinson, all of whom competed in that first event 20 years ago and who are coming out of retirement for this special occasion.
Sean Gill had this to say: “I haven’t driven a rear-wheel-drive rally car like BimmaCup in over twenty-five years and my last competitive drive was over ten years ago in the 4WD SX4 but this anniversary event seemed a good time to come out to play again. I thoroughly enjoyed rallysprinting at Vaucluse Raceway over the years and had great success with the Suzuki team. It’s a very challenging track and I’m looking forward to it immensely!”
Neil Armstrong added: “I’ve never owned a rear-wheel-drive rally car! But Vaucluse Raceway is a real drivers’ track and I’m looking forward to some good sideways sport. BimmaCup is an affordable way to compete in Barbados against some tremendous drivers and I’d be lucky to end up in the top half but I’m sure I’ll be grinning the entire time!”
Jason Parkinson would seem to have the upper hand of the trio; theoretically. “I still remember that first event in 2000 like it was yesterday. I had just started competing in my Starlet. These BimmaCup cars are a bit instinctive to drive like Starlets but much more user-friendly and forgiving. Next Saturday is going to be bare action from the first green light!”
Gates open at Vaucluse Raceway at 1pm on Saturday, Augsut 15th. All COVID-19 protocols will be in effect including mandatory masks, hand sanitizing and contact tracing personal info. Entrance will be through the south pits gate only.
ADMISSION IS FREE.