Watson rocks Bushy Park Barbados

Watson rocks Bushy Park Barbados

Rhett Watson is the runaway leader of the Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge - Suzuki Rocks! - after yesterday's (Sunday) first two Driver Challenges at Bushy Park Circuit. With a score of 63 points, he has a 21-point advantage over Roger Mayers and Josh Read, who ended the day tied in second place.

Sunday's action, played out on the Clubhouse Straight in front of an enthusiastic crowd during the Beacon Insurance BMF Club Meet, kicked off the competition element of Suzuki Rocks, the quest for the best in the island, to find two drivers to represent Team Barbados in the ROC Nations Cup, the team event staged on the Saturday of Race Of Champions weekend (December 13/14).

The Driver Challenges were low-speed autocross-style tests, each course marked out by orange cones and drivers at the wheel of identical 1.2-litre automatic Suzuki Swifts. After a briefing meeting, at which diagrams of each course were distributed, there was a driver walk-through, before four-time BRC Autocross Champion Omar Boodhoo drove the test to set a benchmark time.

The first course was described as being "of moderate complexity", the second a more flowing slalom-style test; in the first test, the drivers competed in alphabetical order, Neil Armstrong the first to go, setting a time of 55.26s. He was followed by former Autocross Champion Jamal Brathwaite, who looked set to take the lead, but he was the first to suffer a two-second penalty for knocking over a cone.

Friends and supporters had driven over from the pits, lining the inside of the circuit, joining the spectators on the hill in cheering on their favoured driver. Kenrick Husbands was the first driver to have his time disallowed for wrong direction, while Roger Mayers earned a big cheer for his effort of 54.35s, moving him into the lead. It did not last long, however, Josh Read eclipsing his time by three-hundredths of a second.

Watson was the last but one to drive, clocking 53.43s, to win by nine-tenths and collect the maximum 35 points, with Read second on 28, Mayers third (23), Armstrong fourth (19) and Brathwaite fifth (17); eight drivers failed to score in the first test, so would have work to do in the slalom.

After the chance to enjoy a broad spectrum of bike, car, drag and kart racing, the 18 drivers returned to do battle. Once again a walk-through was followed by Omar Boodhoo setting a benchmark time, with Brathwaite the first driver to beat it, on 43.79s . . . and he seemed set for a good result, as the next nine drivers were either slower, or had their times disallowed. It was Dane Skeete, a non-scorer in the first test, however, who spoiled Brathwaite's party, an impressive 43.37s moving him into the lead.

And there he would stay, Brathwaite slipping to third, when another determined performance from Watson placed him second to Skeete, five-hundredths faster than the former autocross champion. All but two of the drivers who had failed to score in the first test reversed their fortunes second time round, leaving Steve King and Trevor Manning the only drivers yet to open their account, along with Sammy Cumberbatch and Andrew Jones, who were out of the island.

Details of the final element of the selection process will be announced shortly. All drivers will go through to the second stage, in which they will again compete against the clock, but in a variety of vehicles, and with double points available for each test. The final selection of Team Barbados will be made and announced after this second event.

Fans are still encouraged to vote for their favoured driver in the on-line poll - go to www.facebook.com/ROCBarbados - as the results of both on-line voting and on-track performance will be taken into consideration in the final decision.

Suzuki ROC Barbados Challenge
1st Rhett Watson - 63 points
2nd equal Roger Mayers & Josh Read - 42pts
4th Jamal Brathwaite - 40pts
5th Dane Skeete - 35pts
6th Roger Skeete - 31pts
7th Neil Armstrong - 29pts
8th Daryl Clarke - 28pts
9th Geoffrey Ullyett - 25pts
10th Mark Thompson - 21pts
11th Karl Waterman - 17pts
12th Edward Corbin - 15pts
13th Philip Moe - 13pts
14th Stuart Williams - 12pts
15th Stuart Maloney - 9pts
16th Kenrick Husbands - 7pts

Yet to score
Sammy Cumberbatch
Andrew Jones
Steve King
Trevor Manning