Conditions were none too pleasant at the start of this Morecambe Car Club single venue rally held at the old airfield next to Haverigg Prison. As the winds from the Irish Sea whipped across the sand dunes the rain was being driven almost horizontally and the wind turbines which are now the prominent feature of the site were ‘whurring’ for all their worth.
The fourth round of the ANWCC Stage Rally Championship attracted a disappointing entry as only twenty-three cars started the opening pair of stages.
The tricky conditions soon caught out the unaware but two cars were already proving a class apart. By the end of stage one John Stone and Paul Mount had moved the MG Metro 6R4 into an eight second lead over the Ford Escort Cosworth of Trevor Smith and Anthony Desay. The two cars then matched times on stage two but by now had already opened up a gap of over half a minute on the chasing pack.
The numbers of those chasing was already rapidly diminishing as by now no fewer than eight cars had retired. The pick of those still going were Tot and Maureen Dixon in the Vauxhall Nova who were tied for third with the Ford Sapphire Cosworth of Paul Miller and Keith Barnes. Nick Stamper and Heather Leslie were two seconds behind them lying fifth in their Escort Cosworth.
Amongst those early retirements were Ian and Allan Patterson who had made the long journey south from Dumfries to debut their newly acquired Subaru Impreza. They had been fourth fastest through the opening stage before gearbox problems side-lined them on the second test.
Smith and Desay pulled three seconds back on SS3 but the Metro of Stone and Mount retaliated in fine style finishing SS4 nine seconds quicker. Stamper/Leslie had already snatched third when the Dixon’s driveshaft failed while Miller/Barnes held onto fourth despite completing the two stages running on three cylinders. The fault was eventually traced to a cracked distributor cap and once this was replaced the car ran faultlessly for the rest of the day. Andrew Darbyshire and Carla Charlton now moved up to fifth despite the driver complaining of a lack of grip from the rear wheel drive Escort Mk1.
Smith and Desay clawed back another second through SS5 but it was at the start of the next stage, just as the sun came out, that the Escort crew must have thought it was to be their day. Stone and Mount had just booked into the arrival control for the start of stage six when the header tank cap blew off. The car was shrouded in steam but fortunately it looked worse than it actually was. Once it cooled Stone secured the cap with a zip tie and the Metro finally started the stage at the back of the field. The driver clearly wasn’t phased by the incident as he proceeded to add another ten seconds to his lead.
By now Nick Stamper and Heather Leslie (Escort Cosworth) were holding a distant third, a minute and twenty-two seconds behind Smith and Desay, but looking comfortably placed twenty-five seconds up on Miller and Barnes.
Then as the two leading crews traded seconds over stages seven and eight Miller and Barnes stepped up a gear to take third. This position looked secure when within sight of the start of stage nine the gearbox failed on Stamper/Leslie’s Escort Cosworth leaving the Sapphire crew only needing to avoid any late dramas to take third overall and the Class 4 win.
The leading pair continued to swap fastest times through the following three stages leaving the Metro crew to carry a nineteen second advantage going into the twelfth and final test. Stone and Mount could now afford to back off and in doing so dropped fourteen seconds to their rivals but it proved to be a calculated drive by the Metro crew. In finishing five seconds ahead of Smith and Desay’s Escort Cosworth they took their second successive victory on this event.
Peugeot 309 GTi pairing Paul McClure and Mark Walmsley took the Class 3 win whilst Class 2 honours went to Mark Jenkinson and Kevin Parkinson (Escort Mk1) who finished twelfth overall.
1. John Stone/Paul Mount (MG Metro 6R4) 56:32
2. Trevor Smith/Anthony Desay (Ford Escort Cosworth) 56:37
3. Paul Miller/Keith Barnes (Ford Sapphire Cosworth) 60:18
4. Andrew Darbyshire/Carla Charlton (Ford Escort Mk1) 61:51
5. Paul McClure/Mark Walmsley (Peugeot 309 GTi) 63:08
6. David Gardner/Stuart Hartley (Subaru Impreza) 63:21
7. Neil Mashiter/Katie Mashiter (Ford Escort Mk2) 65:17
8. Simon Martin/Stephen Bethwaite (Ford Escort Mk2) 65:31
9. Michael Dunning/Edward Dentice (Ford Escort Mk2) 65:58
10. Roger Hulse/Brian Cox (Peugeot 205 GTi) 67:41