The roaring cheer of the crowd as the #4 Subaru Impreza S12B WRC slid around a sodden final corner of the final stage at Bushy Park race circuit of Rally Barbados really said it all.
The massive grin on Dane Skeete’s face when he clambered out the car told even more.
He’d done it. He’d won Rally Barbados. For any driver that brings huge kudos, but for a local driver it means everything.
It’s certainly no easy rally to win, even for the drivers who use those tricky island roads on their way to work each morning. The short, sharp nature of the rally means you have to be absolutely on it from the word go otherwise you’d just be left standing – all while on stages that’ll punish even the simplest of mistakes.
However what Skeete displayed at the weekend was a masterclass in crafting a gameplan and then executing it to perfection.
You could argue it’s in the genes. Dane’s father, Roger Skeete, has won Rally Barbados a record 13 times and, by some coincidence, he was one of the first people DirtFish met on our trip to the island, standing at the same corner of SS2 we’d decided to camp at.
“You can only get away with taking the big risks two or three times,” he said, “after that you’ll run out of luck.”
How true those words would prove. You sense it wasn’t just DirtFish that received this coaching in how to approach the event.
Skeete was fastest on the opening test and clung onto chief rival Stuart Maloney for the duration of Saturday, coming alive after a change in tire compound improved his feeling on the second and third loops.
Running just 0.3s behind Maloney’s Škoda ahead of the final stage of day one, Skeete wavered from his plan briefly as he slipped to 3.5s behind overnight – a gap larger than he had hoped.
But out of the traps on Sunday morning, Skeete was inspired. Faster than Maloney by over four seconds, the rally lead was once again his and suddenly the pressure was all on his rival.
What happened then? Maloney came over a crest too hot, landed his Fabia heavily and broke a wheel on a road-side curb.
Thankfully we were able to hold it together and put some pressure on themDane Skeete
Zane Maloney’s exit on the stage prior then meant that Skeete was free and able to just slip into “full preservation mode” to net his second win on this famous event.
““It was a tough competition,” he told DirtFish.
“Thankfully we were able to hold it together and put some pressure on them, force the mistakes earlier this morning and that left us pretty comfortable.”
Was that the plan? To pile the pressure onto both Maloneys and lure them into mistakes?
“We gave back some time on Saturday, not meaning to, and I figured that once I could pressure them on the first stage this morning we’ll try to force the mistakes and it seems to have worked,” Skeete responded.
“At that point it was just full preservation mode, make it through each stage, try not to concede too much time and get to the end.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Not even a torrential tropical downpour could dampen what Skeene had managed to accomplish. He’s king of the island once again, and nobody can take that away from him for at least 12 months.
He laughed: “It’s great man. It’s the second time [I’ve won] now, trying to catch my father. He’s at 13, so we’ve got a long way to go.”
But nothing is impossible in rallying, perhaps one day Dane could usurp his father.
“We’ll see, we’ll see.”