Rural race to city finish
Weather permitting, a thrilling, action-packed showdown is in store for the many motorsport fans expected to cram the designated route, hoping to get a first-hand view of the FIA/NACAM/JMMC Rally Jamaica 2015, which climaxes this afternoon on the waterfront, downtown Kingston.
According to Marcia Dawes, co-organiser of this year's event, 27 drivers faced the starter yesterday morning in Bog Walk, St Catherine. The rally restarts today at 8 a.m., at the Tru-Juice Sports Club, St Catherine.
Today's route comprises 10 stages at three venues: New Works, Bybrook and Wakefield, St Catherine.
The teams which survived the challenging terrain yesterday will today try to capitalise on every opportunity in a bid to take the chequered flag or secure a podium finish.
Among the favourites tipped to take the major prizes are Jeffrey Panton/Michael Fennell, who will be driving a 2006 Ford Focus WRC in the JA9 Class. Their main rivals will be the Jamaica-born John Powell and his Trinidadian co-driver Nicholas Telfer in their 2015 Ford Fiesta R5 (JA8 Class).
FRENCHMEN COULD UPSTAGE LOCALS
There is also the multitalented Frenchman, Simon Jean-Joseph, who is regarded as the most decorated driver in the event. He and his co-driver, Jack Boyere, are competing in a 2008 Ford Focus WRC (JA9 Class). Despite their limited knowledge of the local circuit, the Frenchmen appear to be the team that could upstage the local entrants.
Joel Jackson and Dmitri Dawkins, with their 2008 Subaru STI, are also in with an excellent chance. Last year, Jackson missed out on a milestone career achievement, when he was controversially placed second.
"Yes, we won the rally last year but were placed second. This year, we are back, and there is no two ways about it. We are coming all out to win. The team is in good spirits and the car in excellent condition," said Jetcon's Andrew Jackson, Joel's father.
A team that will attract a lot of attention is last year's winners, Kyle Gregg and co-driver Hugh Hutchinson, who will be driving a 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10. "Earlier in the week we went out taking pace notes. With the rain and what we saw, some of the stages promise to be very challenging. It is going to be teamwork, and my job is to ensure that we get home safe, but in first place," said Hutchinson, who is one of the top co-drivers competing in the 335-kilometre rally.
MAKING PRESENCE FELT
Hutchinson's former teammate, Gary Gregg, has called for Peter Clarke. The experienced duo, with their 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9, intend to make their presence felt.
"We went out Wednesday to look at the course, and with the rain and what we saw, there might be problems on most of the stages. This means that co-driver and driver will have to be clicking," said Gregg.
After 38 years behind the wheel, competing aggressively in motorsport, Gregg believes that he is moving closer to retirement.
"I have been slowing down. My main focus is helping my son (Kyle) preparing for these events. Rallying requires a lot of hard work. I love it, but right now, I think I will be focusing on contesting some sprint events," the 53 year-old Kingston-based businessman told Automotives.
Rally co-organiser Dawes stressed that even if there is a threat of rain today, the rally will take place once it is safe for the competitors.