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Prizegiving starts off busy opening weekend for R5

Island charity The Because of Jenna Trust received a donation of $5,000 from the 2022 R5 Rally Championship, presented by First Citizens, last Friday (March 17) at the first event of a busy weekend for competitors as the new season also got under way. As the Barbados Motoring Federation’s (BMF) first-ever national championship, the R5 Prizegiving played a prominent role in the BMF’s inaugural Night of Champions.
 At the start of the season, each driver was required to nominate an island charity which would benefit if he became Champion and The Because of Jenna Trust was Stuart Maloney’s choice; accompanied by Cheryl-Ann La Roche, the CEO of title sponsor First Citizens Bank who handed over the year-end awards, Maloney presented a giant cheque to the Trust’s representative Joanne Harrison to huge applause.
 After a short highlights video of action from the season, the first award went to Mark-Anthony Hinkson, Champion Driver in the E-Sports version of the R5 series, which was administered by Caribbean Sim Motorsport (CSM), the newest member of the BMF, affiliated in 2021 to help develop the growing area of digital motor sport. Hinkson won eight of the 11 rounds, including RallyE-Barbados, beating 37 drivers from around the region and the UK to the title.
 Awards followed for the top three in the real world, each preceded by further action footage from the Championship’s inaugural season, which included drag racing, rallies, rallysprints and sprints. There were 12 points-scorers, three different event winners and year-long the competition was fought out in 10ths and 100ths of seconds.
 A tie-break was necessary to settle second and third: with best results of two second places with his long-standing co-driver Graham Gittens and one of only three drivers to compete in all 15 rounds, Roger Hill finished third. Although he didn’t join the Championship until round six, two victories including the high-scoring Rally Barbados round with co-driver Barry Ward meant the tie-break went in favour of Josh Read, but Maloney was a clear Champion, winning 12 rounds with co-driver Kristian Yearwood.
 And Maloney was again the man to watch on both days last weekend as seven R5 drivers competed in the first closed road events of the season, albeit not for points as these were ‘exhibition’ events, with the Championship proper starting with the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Shakedown Stages next month. The Motoring Club Barbados Inc’s (MCBI) Spring Blaze '23 ‘Saturday Night Lights’ edition ran over four timed runs on Saturday on a six-kilometre stage from Featherbed Lane to Drax Hall.
 Maloney, whose Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo has been reshelled since last year, was the fastest of the R5 entry on Saturday, finishing 1.3s ahead of Britain’s Rob Swann in his first competitive outing in his ex-Tom Preston/Stuart Maloney/Suleman Esuf Fabia R5, with Jamaica’s Jeff Panton third, another nine-tenths adrift in his brand-new Fabia Rally2 evo. These three caused a degree of confusion among the hundreds of spectators who lined the popular viewing points at Cliff Plantation, the Kendal Duck Pond and Woodland in St John and St George as all three Fabias were plain white, awaiting livery for the new season. Mark Maloney, whose Fabia Rally2 evo already has its new livery was fourth, Roger Hill (Fabia 5) fifth and Josh Read completed the R5 turn-out, Read driving the only Ford Fiesta R5 against the five Skodas.
 The tables were turned at Sunday’s Vaucluse Raceway Motorsport Club (VRMSC) Andrew Phillips Memorial Stages, named for the legendary all-rounder on racetrack, rally stage and polo field. The distance was a little over 7.5km, running from Hangman Hill, through Vaucluse Raceway to Dukes in St Thomas, with the first four stages run uphill, with stages five to eight downhill from Dukes, with a healthy turnout of spectators at key points along the route and inside the Vaucluse Raceway.
 Although Stuart Maloney once again emerged as the winner, it was Read who came second, losing out by 18secs, with Mark Maloney third, around 10secs further behind; Swann was fourth, very much enjoying driving his new acquisition, while Andrew Mallalieu (Fiesta R5), another with a revised livery for 2023, enjoyed his first competition of the year in fifth. Panton didn’t have such a good day, going off-route in the first stages, so was not classified in the results.

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