Fans flood in for rain-soaked rally

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The wettest ever Legend Fires North West Stages Rally on the Fylde coast produced the closest of finishes, with Kevin Procter and Dave Bellerby guiding their Subaru Impreza WRC home one second ahead of the Nissan Sunny GTi-R of Tony Bardy and Reg Smith.

With gale-force winds and a high tide hitting Blackpool hours before the start, Friday’s pair of Promenade stages were thrown into doubt.

Fortunately, calm followed the storm and the Council’s health and safety officer gave the green light for the rally to run as scheduled.

Northallerton Rallycross star Procter was quickest on three of Friday night’s four stages, with Radcliffe’s Steve Simpson and Simon Hunter in the Hyundai Accent WRC his nearest challenger.

Bardy was third at the night halt, just four seconds ahead of the MG Metro 6R4 of Fleetwood Auto Engineer Mark Holmes and his co-driver Tony Lindsay.

Two other local crews, both in Subaru Imprezas, were in the top ten – Hambleton duo Simon Bowen and Richard Robinson were sixth, and James and Chris Ford from Greenhalgh tenth.

Saturday’s torrential rain played havoc with the cars’ electrical systems, with Dave and Steve Benson among the first to suffer on their return to the sport after a two-year absence.

Their Iain Gorrie Motors/McCulloch Q8 Honda Civic retired on Saturday’s opening NPL Estates Hillhouse stage before a similar fate befell the Toyota Starlet of Wesham’s Garry Houghton and Stephen Davies on Fleetwood Promenade.

Holmes was having water problems of a different kind and attempts to fix his radiator temporarily with a can of Radweld failed. Ironically, he too retired on Fleetwood Promenade, the stage sponsored by his local garage business.

Cleveleys driver Graham Butler fared little better, a broken driveshaft forcing his Evolution Sports Peugeot 106 Maxi out at Weeton while Singleton’s Marcus Feeley and Marc Eaton made the finish only to discover their Subaru Impreza had exceeded their allowed lateness.

Bowen upheld local honour,s finishing fourth overall and claiming the Class D award after finishing one place ahead of Ford.

Another South Shore Club crew in the prizes were Duncan Taylor and Stephen Graveson, who finished 13th overall and third in Class C in an Escort Mk2.

Not so fortunate was Taylor’s son Adam, who retired on the penultimate stage after breaking a driveshaft in his Mitsubishi Lancer.

Adrian Atkinson and Dave Riley were another South Shore crew to record a top 20 finish as their Warden Sapphire Cosworth ending the rally in 18th.

Wrea Green’s Ean Lewin and Laura Taylor made it home 29th overall in the Dtec Fiesta thanks to marshals pulling them back on to the track in Weeton on Friday night.

South Shore member and rally sponsor John Stone, who competed in a hired Nissan Micra to raise money for charity, was rewarded for his efforts with a Class F victory.

Only 44 of the 98 cars made the finish, proving once again that the Blackpool-based event is one of the toughest on the UK Rally calendar.