2012 Rally Report
RALLY REPORT - 2012 LEGEND FIRES NORTH WEST STAGES RALLY
After missing out on victory by only a second on last year's event Tony Bardy made sure of success this time around taking victory by over a minute in his familiar Nissan Sunny GTi-R. With regular co-driver Reg Smith out of the country Bardy renewed an old partnership with Tony Walker and despite not having competed together for 10 years they proved a winning combination.
Their closest challengers, John Stone and Lee Carter, enjoyed a brief spell as rally leaders on Saturday morning but a failing clutch saw the Skoda Fabia WRC crew settle for second.
Last year's winners Kevin Proctor and Dave Bellerby had headed the standings after Friday's four-stage leg but a wrong tyre choice on Saturday ruined any hopes the Subaru Impreza pairing of a repeat victory. After finishing third Proctor was full of praise for his friend and rival saying "Bardy drove like a demon!"
The final outcome could have been different but for a timing error that cost Paul Bird and Kirsty Riddick a six-minute penalty at the start of Friday's first Blackpool stage. It left them in 81st place overnight but an all out attack on Satuday saw them haul their Ford Focus WRC up to fifth place, finishing just two seconds behind the Escort Cosworth of Mark Roberts and Gareth Twiss.
Simon Bowen and Richard Robinson survived a huge spin in the final Clifton stage to take sixth in their Impreza ahead of the Forester of Alex Taylor and Martyn Taylor who hit the Armco there on Friday night.
Top two-wheel drive finishers Russell Morgan and Martin Kenyon claimed eighth place their Escort Mk1 ahead of Pete Gibson and Josh Davison. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 crew had been sixth before being forced to tackle the last group of six stages with three-wheel drive after breaking a rear differential. Adrian Atkinson and Dave Riley completed the top ten in another Evo6 despite losing all their brakes in Weeton.
David and Steven Benson brought their Honda Civic home 11th overall after switching to ice tyres and setting a string of top ten stage times on the final leg to claim the Class B win. Class C winners Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance nursed their Escort RS home with an ailing gearbox finishing 12th overall whilst Class A winners Andrew Fawcett and Chris Purvis finished 17th in their Vauxhall Nova. Stephen Johnson and Steven Butler were forced to run their Nissan Micra without any auxillary lights simply because they didn't have any but they still came out on top of the Class F standings!
The icy conditions took their toll with a high rate of attrition resulting in no fewer than 40 of the 85 starters retiring and Saturday's Blackpool stages were only saved after the organisers arranged for the local Council to grit the stage. Blackpool Borough Council were rewarded for their efforts with the 'Spirit of the Rally' Award.
Congratulations to Tony Bardy and Tony Walker - Winners of the 2012 Legend Fires North West Stages Rally. Photo galleries featuring all competitors are now online at www.pro-rally.co.uk
2011 Rally Report
RALLY REPORT - 2011 LEGEND FIRES NORTH WEST STAGES RALLY
The wettest ever North West Stages Rally produced the closest of finishes with Kevin Procter and Dave Bellerby guiding their Subaru Imprea 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 with set-up crews given a near impossible mission. Fortunately calm followed the storm and the Council's Health and Safety Officer gave the green light allowing the rally to run as scheduled.
Proceedings started with a pair of stages at Weeton where standing water of lake size proportions added another hazard to the venues infamous kerbs. Procter was quickest from the start as the Northallerton Rallycross star was quickest on three of Friday night's four stages with Radcliffe's Steve Simpson and Simon Hunter 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. Ross Butterworth and Kevin Clark's BMW Compact's clutch went with a bang on the start line of the opening Weeton stage, so it was a short rally for the Pendle & DMC crew.
Saturday's incessant rain turned the stages at Hillhouse, where heavy construction traffic had been operating in the days before the rally, into a quagmire. Procter extended his lead through Hillhouse and Fleetwood Promenade to 35 seconds over Simpson on reaching service. Bardy retained third place with Bowen now up to fourth and the top five completed by Craig Pennington and George Healey in their Lancer Evo9.
The rain played havoc with the cars electrical systems and Dave and Steve Benson, returning to the sport after a two-year absence were amongst the first to suffer. Their Honda Civic retired on Saturday's opening 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 make a temporary fix to his radiator with a can of Radweld failed. Ironically he too retired on Fleetwood Promenade, the stage sponsored by his local garage business. David Wallbank and Mike Scrimgour retired early at Hillhouse when their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5 developed fuel problems. Adam Taylor and Loic Ditchburn put their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4 through a Hillhouse fence but continued minus the cars front bumper.
Following a loop of Blackpool Promenade, Hillhouse and Fleetwood Promenade Procter was still in front despite drowning out in Hillhouse, but he now had Bardy, 31 seconds in arrears, as his closest challenger. The rally then moved south to Weeton and Bardy reeled in Procter through the waterlogged roads of the Army Barracks. Andrew Varley and Graham Wild retired their Escort Cosworth here whilst lying fourth. Russell Morgan and Martin Kenyon had been on target for both a class win and a top ten finish until the alternator belt snapped forcing their Ford Escort Mk1 into retirement. Graham Butler and Darren Lakeland also retired here with a broken driveshaft on their Peugeot 106 Maxi.
Procter and Bardy then shared fastest times at Clifton before Procter outpaced his rival on the final pair of Blackpool Promenade tests leaving Bardy with an 11 second advantage with four stages remaining. Thomas Preston and Jamie Forrest ended their rally at this point when their BMW M3 Coupe's propshaft snapped.
By the end of the first pair at Weeton the pendulum had swung in Procter's favour as he headed to Clifton for the final two stages with a one second lead. When Bardy suffered a snapped alternator belt on the first of these it looked to be over but a quick fix and a storming final stage time saw him almost wipe out his 17 second deficit.
Simpson was relieved to finish third after three spins at Weeton had come close to putting him out but Pennington wasn't so happy after learning he'd lost fourth place because of a five minute time penalty. With James and Chris Ford also collecting a penalty, one minute for the Impreza crew who, Bowen then took fourth spot and with it the Class D Award at their expense.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 of husband and wife crew Tony and Emma Hewitt finished sixth with the tracking all awry after hitting a fence in Hillhouse. Connor Corkill and Howard Allison survived an off in Weeton to take Class C honours in their Ford Escort Mk2 after finishing seventh overall. Nigel and Tim Hobson took eighth by a second in their Lancer Evo6 after withstanding a late attack from Alan and Lawrence Kirby who completed all of Saturday's stages with just two-wheel drive in their Impreza.
Alistair Hutchinson and St. John Dykes lost a wheel off their Renault Clio LPG at Fleetwood when the studs sheared but luckily it was close to the finish and they fixed it to finish tenth overall.
Clifton stage sponsor Duncan Taylor and his co-driver Stephen Graveson finished 13th overall and third in Class C in an Escort Mk2 having had a lucky escape in Weeton after hitting a kerb and collecting a puncture. Not so fortunate though was Taylor's son Adam who retired on the penultimate stage of the event after breaking a driveshaft in his already battle scarred Mitsubishi Lancer.
Adrian Atkinson and Dave Riley were another South Shore crew to record a top twenty finish with their Ford Sapphire Cosworth ending the rally in 18th place. Wrea Green's Ean Lewin and Laura Taylor made it home 29th overall in the Dtec Fiesta thanks to marshals pulling them back onto the track in Weeton on Friday night. One South Shore crew who weren't so lucky were Marcus Feeley and Marc Eaton who made the finish only to discover their Subaru Impreza had exceeded their allowed lateness.
Class A honours went to Stephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster in their Vauxhall Nova SR for the third successive year despite the starter motor packing up and being forced to keep the engine running all day Saturday. They finished with a comfortable seven minute margin over Peter Buckley and Rob Jones who survived a last stage off in Clifton in their Nova. Corsa crew John Hislop and Peter Leary finished third.
Brother and Sister pairing Chris Phillips and Sarah Hughes recorded their fourth Class B win on this event, all achieved in the same Peugeot 106. They finished eleventh overall despite suffering electrical problems and an intermittent misfire. Father and son Michael and Josh Davison finished second minus the co-drivers window in their Proton Satria Compact. Mike Axford reckoned he'd had more offs on this rally than the whole of his career but he and David Thomason finished third in their Ford Fiesta RS.
Despite having an unfamiliar lack of power John Stone and Kevin Hodkinson took top honours in the Class F battle of the Nissan Micras ahead of Paul Stringer and Richard Robinson the only other class finishers. Darren Doherty and Chris Thirling's version went out after it's engine ingested water whilst a gear linkage fault accounted for Peter Jackson and Paula Swinscoe's version.
Only 44 of the 98 starters finished the event proving once again that rallies don't come much tougher than the Legend Fires North West Stages.
Top Ten Results
1 Kevin Procter/Dave Bellerby (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1hr40m48s;
2 Tony Bird/Reg Smith (Nissan Sunny GTi-R) 1hr40m49s;
3 Stephen Simpson/Simon Hunter (Hyundai Accent WRC) 1hr45m36s;
4 Simon Bowen/Richard Robinson (Subaru Impreza) 1hr45m50s;
5 James Ford/Chris Ford (Subaru Impreza) 1hr46m17s;
6 Tony Hewitt/Emma Hewitt (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) 1hr47m36s;
7 Connor Corkill/Howard Allison (Ford Escort Mk2) 1hr49m19s;
8 Nigel Hobson/Tim Hobson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) 1hr50m29s;
9 Alan Kirby/Lawrence Kirby (Subaru Impreza) 1hr50m30s;
10 Alistair Hutchinson/StJohn Dykes (Renault Clio LPG) 1hr51m10s.
Class Award Winners
A: Stephen Bethwaite/Ann Forster (Vauxhall Nova SR);
B: Chris Phillips/Sarah Hughes (Peugeot 106);
F: John Stone/Kevin Hodkinson (Nissan Micra).
2008 Rally Report
Simpson's Seaside Special!
Steve Simpson and Mark Booth clearly like rallying beside the seaside. Especially in Blackpool! After all, they've won every single Legend Fires North West Stages Rally since it moved to it's current home on the Fylde coast. This year's victory by the Hyundai Accent WRC crew made it four wins on the trot and five in total for the Radcliffe duo.
They headed the standings from the off and were the only crew to do so all day, a sure indication of how the 2007 National Tarmac Champions were in complete control throughout for the duration of the event. From the moment they were flagged away by Blackpool Mayor Cllr Robert Wynne they sped into an instant lead and held pole position to the finish.
Legend Fires supremo John Stone and co-driver Lee Carter were always going to provide a close challenge but their chances faltered on SS6 Weeton 2 where they went off after passing the Nissan GTi-R of Tony Bardy and Reg Smith. They went on to set a no fewer than 11 fastest stage times but their visit to the scenery cost them dearly and the MG Metro 6R4 crew could get no higher than third at the finish.
Benefiting from Stone's excursion Bardy grabbed second place and kept it for the remainder of the rally but having already dropped time with a broken shaft on the opening stage the Scotch Corner driver never had a realistic chance of catching Simpson.
Graham Coffey and Simon Hunter lost almost a minute on SS1 as a result of a malfunctioning paddle shift leaving the Impreza WRC in a lowly 60th place. They spent the rest of the rally playing catch up and would have finished third had it not been for Stone's late charge demoting them to fourth.
Scots crew Bob Grant and Peter Cartstairs finished fifth with their Impreza showing signs of an eventful day that included an 'off' at Weeton whilst in complete contrast the sixth placed Lancer Evo4 of locals Duncan Taylor and Stephen Graveson was unmarked. Taylor reckoned the only mistake he'd made was in choosing the wrong tyres for the opening loop of stages and his consistency thereafter paid dividends.
Stojanov brothers Peter and Tim couldn't conjure up a repeat of their 2002 victory in the ex-John Price MG Metro 6R4 but a late charge saw them grab seventh from the Impreza 555 of Howard Chopping and Jonathan Turnbull. Chopping blamed a slow start for not finishing higher stating "I didn't wake up until lunch time."
Prior to the start Martin Farrar and Andy Ward weren't overjoyed at being seeded as car 43 but they had been away from the rally scene for over 12 months. They made their point though in the best way possible bringing their MG ZR to the finish ninth overall and Class C winners.
Gordon Winning and Robin Laird were another crew from north of the border making their mark on English soil. They completed the top ten in their Escort Mk2 after overhauling the Impreza of Kev Jeffray and Linda Thomas on the last stage. It was only Linda's second ever event after brother Kev cajoled her into competing. The car was the one Kev had driven in two-wheel drive format on last year's Roger Albert Clark Rally but was now back in four wheel drive mode as Subaru always intended!
Alan Causey and Derek Blyth brought the ex-works Suzuki Ignis S1600 home 14th overall and 1st in Class B despite losing third gear after a tight battle with Chris Phillips and Sarah Hughes in the Peugeot 106 who finished one place behind in 15th overall.
Coincidentally another South Shore crew, David and Steven Benson, also had third gear problems but that didn't prevent them repeating their 2007 Class A success in their Peugeot 205 with a top twenty finish.
With 53 retirements there were plenty of hard luck stories about what might have been. Steve and Ben Cressey had been third before limping out of SS6 with a broken strut on their Evo4 and Darren Atkinson and Phil Sandham had also held that position before being forced out with a broken shaft on their Escort Mk2. Stuart Deeley and Alistair Dodd were the first retirements of the day after the Lotus Banks Europa ground to a halt on the opening stage.
David Gardner and Phil Stone could lay claim to setting the hottest pace of the day but probably won't. The Myerscough College crew retired their Impreza as a result of a fire and needed the aid of a local fire fighting crew to save the car! Despite starting as car 13 Richard Banks and Phil Peak considered themselves luckier after heeding a marshal's warning and retiring their Impreza before the flames took a real hold.
Not so good either for Pilling's Andrew and Derek Benson who suffered a huge promenade stage accident in their Peugeot 205. The stage was stopped to allow the rescue team to recover the car and an ambulance brought in to take the crew to hospital from where both Andrew and his Dad Derek were later discharged shaken but nothing broken.
A number of cars were forced into retirement following altercations with kerbs. Amongst those were Alan Kirby and Colin Burley (Impreza); Andy Leech and John Simkiss (BMW M3); David Gratrix and Andy Austwick (Fiesta) and David Blackburn and Stephen Riley (Datsun Violet).
Now if you think that rallying is an expensive sport consider this. Fleetwood's Nick West persuaded his wife Carol that they should do the event in her everyday road car, a Suzuki Ignis. Never having rallied before apparently Carol took some persuasion but they started the event as car 113 and finished over fifty places higher in 62nd overall. In order to preserve Carol's road tyres they obtained some second hand forest rally tyres and they completed the rally on a single tank of fuel. Nick promised to give the car a wash on Sunday so Carol could take it to work Monday! Just how cheap can rallying get?
Without taking anything away from the winners or indeed anyone who finished this demanding and gruelling event the 2008 Legend Fires North West Stages will probably be best remembered for that shipwreck. The Irish ferry 'Riverdance' will unfortunately go down in rally folklore for the part it played in disrupting the event. Let's just hope it's gone before next year's rally comes around!
Top Ten Results
1 Steve Simpson/Mark Booth (Hyundai Accent WRC) 90m 34s;
2 Tony Bardy/Reg Smith(Nissan GTi R) 92m 19s;
3 John Stone/Lee Carter (MG Metro 6R4) 93m 49s;
4 Graham Coffey/Simon Hunter (Subaru Impreza WRC) 93m 57s;
5 Bob Grant/Peter Cartstairs (Subaru Impreza) 94m 17s;
6 Duncan Taylor/Stephen Graveson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4) 95m 40s;
7 Peter Stojanov/Tim Stojanov (MG Metro 6R4) 96m12s;
8 Howard Chopping/Jonathan Turnbull (Subaru Impreza 555) 96m 30s;
9 Martin Farrar/Andy Ward (MG ZR) 97m 20s;
10 Gordon Winning/Robin Laird (Ford Escort Mk2) 98m 07s.
Class Award Winners
A: David Benson/Steven Benson (Peugeot 205 Rallye);
B: Alan Causey/Derek Blyth (Suzuki Ignis S1600);