Rally Jamaica eyes Carib racers

BY RORY DALEY Observer senior writer

Friday, December 07, 2018

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WITH the 2018 season closing with last weekend's staging of the Richard Stewart Memorial Rally Jamaica in Bog Walk, St Catherine, event organiser Lawrence Henriques is drumming up interest for next year's season by encouraging inter-Caribbean competition.

“One of our sponsors said to us to try and get four or five more overseas entries because that will get Jamaicans interested. But the truth is that we also need to go other places and rally as a means of attracting those people to Jamaica,” he said.

The two overseas teams that participated in last weekend's event — Radj Pershad from Suriname and Schuravi Mallian from Trinidad, and Harold Morley from Barbados — praised the organisers. They also used the opportunity to issue invitations to Rally Trinidad in April and Rally Barbados in May.

Henriques admitted that Rallysport had a tough year and shared his empathy with many drivers who are dealing with budget constraints.

“When I used to race, I couldn't afford it, but I found ways and means to get it done because I wanted to do it. Maybe I'm fortunate from the point of view that when I got into racing I already had children; most of that was behind me so I could just do what I wanted. Some people have serious commitments and are under serious financial stress. We'll find a way to get a package together for some of us to go away and go to Rally Trinidad as a means of attracting them to Jamaica,” he said.

The rally itself saw 2014 winner Kyle Gregg finally returning to the top of the podium. He, alongside new co-driver Marcia Dawes, took the overall win.

“It's been a long while. It feels good. We were very composed all weekend,” said Gregg.

While fast from the first stage, it wasn't smooth sailing as gearbox issues reared their heads early on day one. However, the team pushed on surviving the car-breaking pace set by his class rivals competitors.

Break they did, as last year's winner Fraser McConnell succumbed to his own gearbox issues early on. Joel Jackson took the lead only to suffer a flat tyre that shredded his Subaru's electrical system. Mechanical woes also affected Timothy Stewart, taking him out of contention.

Their final position has wider implications than the single event win as Gregg tentatively sits on completing the goal of capturing the Driver's Rallysport Club's triple crown, being Rally, Sprint and Overall Rallysport Champion for 2018. For Dawes, she becomes the first female competitor to grace the top step of the Rally Jamaica podium.

“It's awesome to have won. This does a lot for pushing women forward in the sport,” she said.

With the main ranks retiring, the consistent Lee Vaz to second place, finishing one position higher than in 2017.

“We're happy that we made it to the end. We went into this weekend hoping to make as least as possible, basically relearn the car again and to just finish the rally.”

The international pairing of Pershad and Mallian rounded out the top three. Just out of the podium positions were Thomas Hall and Bobby Marshall who both completed the top five.

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