Blackpool was packed with thousands of motor sport fans at the weekend as for the third year in succession the town played host to the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally.
Proceedings got underway under the watchful eye of the Granada TV cameras as Blackpool Mayor, Cllr Allan Matthews, flagged the cars off the start ramp near Gynn Square. Competitors then went into a pair of timed to the second high speed special stages along the Lower Promenade and Middle Walk that was packed with cheering fans.
Leading the way was the Hyundai Accent WRC of Steve Simpson and Mark Booth who would go on to record their fourth win of the eventbut only after surviving a ‘rocky run’ through Pontins. Once again their closest challengers would be Blackpool South Shore Motor Club members John Stone and Lee Carter who had a fraught time in their similar car.
Stone’s rally got off to a frustrating start when the car stalled at the hairpin by the Metropole Hotel losing him precious seconds on the opening stage. That was just the start of a traumatic day for the South Shore crew as they stalled again on the second stage losing even more time. When the rally moved onto Weeton Barracks they went off the road, lost more time at Clifton in a ditch then crawled through Lytham Hall after losing power when the turbocharger failed. It was only thanks to the sportsmanship of Simpson in lending Stone his spare turbo unit that the South Shore member made the finish.
Behind the pair of Accents Tim Johnson and Tony Walker claimed the final podium place in their Subaru Impreza ahead of the top two-wheel drive finishing Ford Escort Mk2 of Darren Atkinson and Phil Sandham.
Stone and Carter weren’t the only South Shore crew to claim a top ten finish. Mark Holmes and Anthony Ross guided their Ford Escort Mk2 to tenth place despite having to run all days on tyres with too hard a compound. The car was under-steering and sliding around on the Promenade where the surface still had large areas of standing water left by the morning’s high tide. They then survived a series of spins at Weeton but an altercation with an Armco barrier at Clifton left the car looking worse for wear by the finish. Still, they’d made it, which is more than half the 111 starters did and their efforts were further rewarded with the Class C (for cars up to 2000cc) runners-up prize.
Another local crew making their mark were Blackpool’s ‘battling Benson brothers’ David and Stephen who turned in another class winning performance earning the laurels in Class A (up to 1400cc) in their 1300cc Peugeot 205. Their day wasn’t without problems either having to complete the Clifton stage with the car stuck in second gear then complete two stages through Lytham Hall with it stuck in fifth! The problem was solved at the Pontins service halt but then the alternator worked loose snapping a wire in Weeton and they dropped twenty seconds. More work from the service crew and they managed to hold their class lead finishing fifteenth overall ahead of a lot more powerful cars.