A HARD ROAD Challenging route for Barbados Historic Rally Carnival

After 4,000-plus miles and 10 days in transit since being delivered to Portsmouth by their owners, European competitors' rally cars have now been offloaded from Geest's banana boat and await release formalities in the safety of Barbados' Bridgetown Port. From there, it's off to secure storage until their owners arrive by air from London Gatwick in three weeks time.

Meanwhile, Historic Rally Carnival organisers have been busy formalising the details of the Caribbean's only all-historic motor sport competition, which stretches over two weeks, to encompass two distinctly different motor sport events.

Click here for event schedule

After arrival and a 'Meet and Greet' on Thursday 20 August, crews have time to prepare their steeds for Friday's scrutineering and a Welcome Party, before the first event of the Carnival: the International RallySprint at Vaucluse Raceway on Saturday 22 August.

RallySprint action at Vaucluse Raceway

Vaucluse Raceway may well be the last remaining, full-size, purpose-built rallysprint track in the world, designed to a format like that conceived by Michele Mouton for the first Race of Champions in 1988 and patterned after the RoC track constructed in Gran Canaria in 1992. The concept comprises cars setting off in pairs on a twin-lane road which overlaps itself with a bridge to create a two-mile side-by-side rally course - identifiable by the red and blue traces in the diagram.

RallySprint track layout at Vaucluse Raceway

Cars with equal performance potential go head-to-head, to establish group and class winners through an elimination process. At the end of the group/class competitions, the winners race each other in a handicap system, with their start times staggered according to their class-winning times. This handicap system is unique to Barbados and - since construction of Vaucluse Raceway in 2001 - has created some epic, giant-killing race finishes which have kept spectators on their toes - and drivers' toes down!

Carnival organisers have concentrated on greatly improving the Vaucluse Raceway facility since it was last used for a rallysprint in 2007. To avoid largely unpredictable tropical downpours transforming the previous predominantly clay surface into cloying mush, thereby rendering the track unusable, there is now a new, hard-packed gravel, surface-binder treated, track, which becomes 'rubbered-in' as events progress.

Improved spectator access points to the Raceway are now in place and a new clubhouse with elevated viewing has been erected at the hugely popular and very challenging Southern Hairpin. Newcomers and diehard Vaucluse fans will be delighted to know that the Pig 'n' Likka bar remains. This famous watering hole is ideally located; close by the paddock area, in a commanding position offering good track viewing of the start/finish line.

A strategic improvement to Vaucluse Raceway is the development of a gravel-surfaced kart track to the north of the infield. This forms part of an exciting innovation to the routing of the 2015 Barbados Historic Rally on 29 August.

Now integral to the Hangman Hill to Highland special stage, competitors divert into and out of Vaucluse Raceway to tackle an extra 1.7 miles on a specific rally stage-modified version of the Raceway's kart track routes in both directions.

Vaucluse Raceway kart track extension to Hangman Hill stage

As can be seen from the illustration, this is a very technical route providing a unique extra challenge for every competitor: each would be well advised to ensure their car's handbrake is in proper working order here!

Incorporating the Vaucluse Raceway section, Hangman Hill to Highland is the first special stage in the Barbados Historic Rally and runs three times north on Saturday afternoon, then three times south after the dinner service stop. Spectators could spend the duration of the Rally at various vantage points in the 50-acre Vaucluse venue, which may have three rally cars in view at any one time.

Typically, Barbados' asphalt roads are slippery and bumpy and, apart from the newly-surfaced Vaucluse Raceway section, stages on the Barbados Historic Rally are run over such roads (locals recommend Irish tarmac suspension settings to visitors). There are three multiple use - in both directions - special stage venues; two four-hour legs and 50 competitive stage miles to decide a winner; much of which is run at night; quite uncommon in the world of historic rallying, but certainly nostalgic.

It is a competitive distance which, for a Caribbean island some 140 sq km smaller than the Isle of Man, must be something of an achievement.

McRae's Tuthill Porsche, wheels off at Turners' Hall

Competition complete, on Sunday it's off to what has been a hugely popular element of the Carnival since its inception in 2001: the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship prizegiving party cruise. It is not only dead men who tell no tales of this great adventure - and there are few pictures to share!