Report by M. Dawes-Lamey from RallyJamaica.com
The premier motorsport event on the Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club calendar took place on the weekend of December 5-7 2008. Dubbed the Petcom Stages Rally, massive crowds gathered at the National Stadium in Kingston Jamaica on the afternoon of Friday December 5th to witness the preliminary challenge of a two lap sprint around the National Stadium. Accompanied by the Mexican Ambassador to Jamaica to show support, the duo of Ricardo Trivinio and Checo Salom representing Mexico in their Peugeot 206 WRC were competing in the event for the first time. However, they were to face serious competition over the following two days as the potent pair of Roger ‘The Sherriff’ Skeete and Robert Simmons of Barbados were campaigning a Subaru Imprezza WRC, as well as Paul ‘Surfer’ Bourne and Stuart Maloney in a similar Subaru, also of Barbados were intent on relieving Jamaica of the coveted overall 1st place trophy. Jamaica was however well represented in the JA9 class, as reigning champions Gary ‘The Colonel’ Gregg and Hugh Hutchinson in their Ford Focus WRC were prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that the championship is retained in Jamaica. Gary was not to be alone, as Jeffrey ‘Fudgy’ Panton and Mike Fennel Jr. upgraded their ride since last year to return with a Ford Focus WRC. With five WRC machines entering the event that boasted a total of 41 entrants, motorsport enthusiasts came out in their numbers to see Energy Minister Clive Mullings wave of some cars to officially start the event.
Other overseas entrants representing Barbados were the highly anticipated Jonathan ‘Stillo’ Still alongside Jamaican David ‘Stinger’ Anderson in Stillo’s rear wheel drive BMW M3. Stillo has been a mainstay in Rally Jamaica over the past few years and has gained many fans with his driving style that has thrilled many fans. Representing the JA4 class, Stillo would be going up against Driver’s Champion Designate Thomas Hall and Andre Gordon in their Turbo Starlet. Also in JA4, competing for the first time in a Rally Jamaica was Alan Chen alongside Marcia Dawes-Lamey in his rear wheel drive Toyota Corolla. The very highly populated JN8 class of 10 competitors included 3 entrants from Barbados. James Betts/Jeremy Gonsalves in a Subaru Imprezza N9, Dean Serrao/Clint Gregory in a Subaru Imprezza N12, and Harold Morley/Geoffrey Goddard in their brand new Subaru N14. They were up against tough competition in the form of Doug ‘Hollywood’ Gore/Mark Nelson in Doug’s Mitsubishi Evolution Ten. Lone female entrant, the beautiful Natasha Chang of Jamspeed Adrenaline Rush fame alongside navigator Guy Fraser in her Mitsubishi Evolution 5 was prepared to show that girls can also please a crowd in a four wheel drive machine. Sean Gill/Michael Cummings in a Suzuki Swift represented Barbados in the JC1 class with local competitors Jeremy Groves/Sean McDonald in a rear wheel drive Turbo Starlet as only competition in class.
Originally scheduled to run two rounds (SS1 and SS2) at the National Stadium, only SS1 was able to be run. After the dust cleared around the stadium, the local Foci sent clear messages that they aimed to keep the coveted trophy on the shores of ‘Jam down’. Gregg/Hutchinson won SS1 with a time of 1:33.505, followed closely by Panton/Fennel Jr. in a time of 1:35.765. Surprisingly in third was the front wheel drive Suzuki Ignis of Tarik Minott/Peter Clarke in a time of 1:36.340. Rounding out the top 5 at the stadium were Gill/Cummings then Bourne/Maloney with times of 1:38.580 and 1:38.850 respectively. As the night came to a close, motorsport fans anticipated Leg 1 in Lydford St. Ann with unbridled enthusiasm.
The fast, treacherous downhill terrain of the first Reynolds Stage (SS3) saw the attrition rate instantly climbing, as this stage immediately claimed 4 competitors. Many fans were disappointed to know that Bourne/Maloney weren’t able to compete due to an engine failure. Other noted competitors were Driver’s Champion Hall/Gordon who failed to stick to the loose gravel and ended up across a side railing with wheels pointing to the heavens after about 4 somersaults. By the end of Day 2 Leg 1, the attrition rated steadily climbed to 16 entrants. Day 2 ended after 11 stages that included Reynolds, Lydford, Airstrip, Haddon Pen (Lydford reversed) and Haddon Strip (a combination of Haddon Pen and Air Strip). Another notable who failed to complete Day 2 was Richard ‘Sir Rich’ Rerrie in his Subara WRX Sti as the lone competitor the JA8 class. Noted as a big disappointment among enthusiasts, Sir Rich maintained pace with the big boys until he experienced mechanical failure. Sir Rich was firmly cemented in 4th place before failing to continue. Another major disappointment was Still/Anderson in the entertaining BMW M3 who failed to negotiate a turn on the Lydford Stage and lost control slamming into trees, resulting in a broken drive shaft. However, repairs to the vehicle would have been possible if Stillo hadn’t experienced a back injury which aggravated a previous injury. He was promptly transported for medical care where the doctor advised against further racing. We all wish Stillo a speedy recovery.
By the end of Day 2, Gregg/Hutchinson held a firm grip on their lead at the end of SS13 by a margin of approximately 1:46 followed by Panton/Fennel Jr., Skeete/Simmons, Trivinio/Salom and Gore/Nelson respectively. Gregg’s lead would not have been such a wide margin if Panton hadn’t picked up a late start penalty which set him back by 1:20. ‘Hollywood’ at this point, was showing real promise with a near stock Mitsubishi Evolution Ten and only one minute behind the Mexican Rally Champion. Andrew Forsyth/Basil McIntosh in a Honda CRX led the JA2 class, while Bobby Marshall/Carlington Brissett in a Mitsubishi Mirage led the JA3 class. With Stillo and Hall out of contention, Chen/Dawes-Lamey now dominated the JA4 class with only competition coming from another first time entrant Orville Johnson/Matthew Isaacs in a Turbo Charged Toyota Tercel.
Like Days 1 and 2, Day 3 brought with it thousands of spectators swarming the orange groves of Bog Walk in St. Catherine to see the famous water splash, the highly exciting New Works Stage or the magnificent view of the machines thundering through the countryside from the True Juice stands. Panton/Fennel Jr. claimed Leg 2 honors with an elapsed time of 36:06.506, followed closely by the Skeete/Simmons in a time of 37:07.095. Gore/Nelson claimed 3rd with a time of 39:34.073. Gregg/Hutchinson fell from grace on leg 2 due to a malfunction in their focus after being given starting orders. After a failure on Leg 1, Jordan Powell/Jameil Dunkley in their Toyota Corolla FX2 claimed Leg 2 honors for the JA2 class. Chen/Dawes-Lamey (JA4) and Marshall/Brissett (JA3) continued to dominate their respective classes.
The final two Digicel Sponsored stages brought the machines to the streets of New Kingston to the largest crowd ever to see the machines complete two timed laps and a third exhibition lap to the glee of the massive crowd. Gregg/Hutchinson claimed the top New Kingston prize in a time of 1:30.270 followed by Trivinio/Salom returning from a Leg 2 failure in a time of 1:31.460 and Panton/Fennel Jr. in a time of 1:33.890. However, New Kingston belonged to the machines who exhibited crowd pleasing doughnuts and other vehicular mastery. The Sherrif’s Subaru pounced through Knutsford Boulevard with magnificent doughnuts and superior car control. The rear wheel drive vehicles of Chen and Jeremy Groves also showed why we still love to see a rear wheel drive car in a major competition as this. Not to be outdone, Dion ‘Baby Bomb’ Gardner also showed superior handling by managing to get his front wheel drive Mitsubishi Mirage to accomplish a few 360 degree burnouts.
By the end of the competition, Panton/Fennel Jr. emerged overall winners of the competition with an elapsed time of 1:23:53.892 followed by Skeete/Simmons of Barbados in a time of 1:25:42.164. An appeals process has prevented the naming of a third and fourth overall, but it can be confirmed that Gregg/Hutchinson were third in the JA9 class and Gore/Nelson were victorious in the JN8 class. Betts/Gonsalves were second in the JN8 class, while Dave Lee/Colin Chambers were third. Morley/Goddard, Chang/Fraser, Solis/Lyn and the Brandons rounded out the JN8 class as well as the top 10 overall.
This event was made possible by our title sponsor Petcom and event partners Hilton Hotels, Digicel, Xsomo International, KFC, True Juice, Jamaica Beverages Limited, Kirdex transportation Services, Sea Freight Shipping, Seaboard Marine, Stewart Motors, Kingston Industrial Garage.
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