Welsh garage owner Smith won the 2016 Association of North West Car Club’s (ANWCC) Stage Rally Championship, also the SD34 Stage Rally Championship in 2015 and 2016, while co-driver and fellow-countryman Thomas has won ANWCC titles on both sides of the car: in 2012, he was the Novice Driver Champion in a Peugeot 106, having previously won class co-driver titles.
Smith is eagerly looking forward to returning to the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International; the timing is ideal for a family trip, including their sons Eric and Sion, as he and wife Bethan will celebrate their wedding anniversary and Bethan a milestone birthday during their stay in the island. Smith says: “After I’d been to spectate the year before, deciding to compete in the Polo last year was easy. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the events that I do here, but Rally Barbados is just magical; it is as much the people, the friendliness, the beaches as it is the event. With the kids and other friends who are coming to support, I think we’ll have a group of around 10 or 12.”
Last year, Smith and Thomas finished 47th overall and fourth in Clubman 1 in a Volkswagen Polo built specially for the event and harking back to Smith’s first rally car 26 years ago, a Volkswagen Scirocco. This year, he will campaign his 2.5-litre Millington-engined Darrian, only the second time the only Welsh car manufacturer has been represented in the event. Following Saturday’s outing, Smith is unsure whether he will tackle any more events before Sol RB18: “There’s the Anglesey event that I won last year, so I’d be starting at number one, but it is just a couple of weeks before the car needs to ship to Barbados. Basically, the car is ready to go, so I’d only be just wearing it out a bit more.”
Other Sol RB connections in action at Blyton on Saturday included members of Worksop & District Motor Club, of which island regular Martin Stockdale is President, including Stockdale’s son Tom, competing in his first rally. Stockdale Senior will compete in Barbados for the 18th consecutive year, again with his Divi Southwinds Beach Resort/Drive-a-Matic/Canems Engine Management/Quarry Motors BMW 1M Coupe and with Mark Swallow co-driving.
Stockdale Junior, partnered in a BMW 318ti Compact by Tom Homan, finished 25th and third in class, while Nick Taylor, who has competed in Barbados as co-driver to Stuart Tomlinson, was also driving in a rally for the first time; with co-driver Ross Hammond, he finished 32nd and seventh in class in a Peugeot 205GTi. Another Sol RB regular, Paul Rees, finished 21st and third in class with Paul Briggs in their Vauxhall Astra GTE.