NACAM breathes life into Rally JA
Panton defends Rally JA title
AFTER a turbulent year, the recently concluded Rally Jamaica has gotten a second wind that may restore it to its former status as the Caribbean's premium event.
Rally Jamaica has secured its position as a round of the North American Central America (NACAM) Rally Championship for the next three years.
The announcement came at the rally prize-giving ceremony at The Knutsford Court Hotel, St Andrew, on Monday.
"I think this solidifies the quality of Rally Jamaica as the premier gravel rally in the region. Not only will we play host to NACAM competitors for the next three years, their awards ceremony will be held here next year as well," said Lawrence Henriques, a director of Rallysport Promotions Limited (RPL), rights-holder for Rally Jamaica.
The new deal means a constant supply of international competitors, media exposure in new markets, and a move towards a standardised format for regional rallying.
This year Rally Jamaica was the sixth and final round of the NACAM Rally Championship, a regional series approved by the FIA, the world motorsports governing body. It struggled to find sponsorship dollars; however, through the efforts of RPL and the Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club (JMMC) the rally was more than enough to impress the several representatives from NACAM present.
"Rally Jamaica has great stages and amazing potential," Javier Vargas, one of the two mandatory NACAM stewards, told Auto.
His fellow steward, Rafael Machado, echoed a similar sentiment. For Machado, the clear evidence of a rally culture was what got his attention.
"The event was well organised and the large crowds respect the cars," he said.
Most important were the words of Carlos Cordero, president, NACAM Rally Championship.
"Six years ago our region in terms of rallying was non-existent to the FIA; now the last two Production World Rally Champions came from NACAM," Cordero said.
Fans expecting Rally Jamaica to become a round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in the future may be disappointed as Cordero has more achievable goals.
"NACAM needs to be the stepping stone for regional drivers. To go from local rallying outside of Europe into the WRC is a huge task, and NACAM is positioned to be the training ground for fresh talent of which Rally Jamaica is now a part," Cordero explained.
The event itself saw Jamaican Jeffrey Panton retain his hold on the Rally Jamaica trophy by holding off the challenge of 2011 winner John Powell in his current generation World Rally Car (WRC).
"I really didn't know what to expect from John's car. The first day's stages were rough, with the second day's stages much better for us," said Panton.
Powell conceded at the second day's lunch halt that he was suffering from a lack of confidence in his Ford Fiesta WRC, and despite moving into second position was unable to close the gap.
The driver Powell deposed, Bajan Roger Skeete, finished third in his Subaru Impreza WRC. NACAM regulars Ricardo Trivino and Alejandro Lombardo took the fourth and fifth spots. JN8 went to another Bajan, Harold Morely; Thomas Hall took JA4, and Christopher McFarlane won JA3, with JA3 going to Daryl King.