March 1st, 2012
RALLY REPORT – 2012 Legend Fires North West Stages
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.