February 26th, 2008
RALLY REPORT – 2008 Legend Fires North West Stages
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);