Panton victory returns Rally trophy to Jamaica
JAMAICA'S Jeffrey Panton returned the Rally Jamaica trophy to his homeland after two days of gruelling but exciting cross-country driving that concluded with only 10 of the 25 entries left standing.
The event's reputation of being a car breaker was firmly established on the first day of actual competition: at the lunch service halt approximately five cars had already exited, including two of the three major challengers for the trophy, Trinidadian John Powell and Barbadian Sean Gill, leaving Panton unchallenged to the very end.
"Not the way I wanted to win," said Panton, who had been looking forward to fight with Powell, the 2011 winner.
Barbadian James Betts and local driver Joel Jackson were left to fill the remaining two podium positions.
The rally was also the final battleground for the 2012 RallySport Championship, between the less powerful two-wheel drive machines of Jordan Powell and Matthew Gore. Powell's challenge faded when his car developed engine problems on the first day.
"We just crawled through the water splash, then bam! the engine was gone," Jordan told Auto.
This should have given Gore a clear cruise to the end for Jamaica's top title, but on day two it almost came to an end for him as well, when co-driver Raymond Farquharson suffered serious injury to his face.
"The car was overheating as the connection for the cooling fan had worked its way loose. Raymond was trying to fix it when the overflow bottle opened up, spraying his face," explained Gore.
Despite the pain, Farquharson opted to continue, and with medical attention between the stages the pair finished the event, taking the 2012 RallySport title.