Watson & Skeete for Race Of Champions Team Barbados
Rhett Watson and Dane Skeete will represent Team Barbados in the ROC Nations Cup at Race Of Champions 2014, which will be staged in the island next month (December 13/14). Race Of Champions director Fredrik Johnsson was at Bushy Park yesterday (Sunday) to witness the conclusion of the Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge and congratulate the two winners.
Watson, who had been the front-runner throughout Suzuki Rocks, said: “It’s a dream come true to be representing Barbados against the world’s best drivers, especially Petter Solberg, with his charismatic personality. As a young boy, I watched him rally and win and I’m honoured to be racing against one of my idols.”
Skeete, whose father Roger was also among the 20 local champions on the Barbados Motoring Federation’s (BMF) short list, added: “I'm really excited to be representing the island. A big thank you to all the organisers, Suzuki and of course my dad. I’m looking forward to tackling the champs alongside Rhett!”
Applauding the two winners, Johnsson said: “Well done to everyone who took part. I have learned how competitive motor sport is in Barbados, so to win against such opposition is a major achievement. I wish you both luck in December against our champions from around the world and hope you enjoy the experience.”
Following the first round of the selection process last month, Watson was already the runaway leader; having won the first on-track challenge, then finished runner-up in the second, he started Sunday’s programme with a cushion of 21 points over Roger Mayers and Josh Read, who were tied in second place. Jamal Brathwaite was fourth, with Dane Skeete fifth, having scored no points in the first test, but beaten Watson in the second.
Sunday’s opening test marked the first time the new ROC Skills Challenge Course had been used in competition; devised by the ROC team for inclusion in this year’s Race Of Champions, it had only previously been seen in Germany, during the 2014 World Cup, where demonstration runs were made by drivers including Susie Wolff, who will become the first woman to compete in the Race Of Champions next month.
The course, which included a slalom, 360-degreee doughnut and 180-degree reverse turn, brought new names into play, as each contender drove the same Suzuki Swift Sport – Geoff Ullyett, who started the day ninth, leapt up to second with the fastest time, Trevor Manning, a non-scorer last month, joined the points table in 11th (which could have been fourth place, but for a two-second penalty), while Karl Waterman climbed from 10th to sixth. Watson was second fastest, maintaining his advantage.
After a short break, the Swift Sport was pressed into service once again, in the first Time Attack Challenge, one timed lap of the 1.2-kilometre Kart Circuit. Watson returned to the top of the time sheets to consolidate his position, with Ullyett holding on to second place, despite his time only placing him 15th. New third-place man was Daryl Clarke, third quickest in this test, and the first of seven drivers covered by only 15 points going in to the final round. The last of these was Kenrick Husbands, who climbed into the top 10 for the first time with a stunning lap, good enough for second place in the Suzuki Swift Time Attack and faster than all but Watson of the 13 drivers who went before him. With 70 points on offer for the fastest time, it was still very much ‘Game On!’
For the final test, contenders returned to the Kart Circuit, this time in a Suzuki-powered Radical SR3, Bushy Park’s ‘school’ car, with dual pedals and Orry Hunte, who had conducted the drivers’ briefing, in the passenger seat. It was Watson’s only result outside the top two – he was sixth – but his Team Barbados slot was already secure.
Roger Mayers was the first to beat Watson’s time, although he would not recover from being slowest on the ROC Skills Challenge Course; Ullyett, Mark Thompson and Neil Armstrong were also faster, but it was a committed lap by Dane Skeete that won the test, more than two seconds better than the rest. Placed third and fourth before the final round, Daryl Clarke and Josh Read slipped out of contention with spins, leaving Skeete to join Watson in Team Barbados . . . having beaten Ullyett by just two points.
Watson and Skeete will represent the host nation twice over ROC weekend: in the ROC Nations Cup, they will face champions from around the world while ROC Caribbean will be a head-to-head competition against teams from Guyana (Kristian Jeffrey, Mark Vieira), Jamaica (Doug Gore, Jeffrey Panton) and Trinidad & Tobago (Franklyn Boodram, David Coelho).
In addition, the faster driver from Barbados and the fastest from the region in the ROC Caribbean heats will go through to face an all-star cast in the individual competition on the Sunday. Confirmed drivers already include the reigning ROC Champion of Champions, Lotus Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean, 2014 FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg and 2014 Indy500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge
1st Rhett Watson - 221 points
2nd Dane Skeete - 167pts
3rd Geoff Ullyett - 165pts
4th Mark Thompson - 133pts
5th Daryl Clarke - 128pts
6th Jamal Brathwaite & Roger Mayers - 126pts
8th Josh Read - 122pts
9th Kenrick Husbands - 113pts
10th Karl Waterman - 103pts