North west stages rally - Feb 17

It was looking good for Blackpool South Shore Motor Club members Simon Bowen and Richard Robinson as they headed the leaderboard at the end of Friday’s opening leg. Sadly it didn’t last as once Saturday dawned the Subrau Impreza WRC crew encountered a number of problems that ultimately forced their retirement.

That left the way open for Carnforth’s Arron Newby and his Manx co-driver Robb Fagg to claim their first ever Legend Fires North West Stages victory and complete a hat-trick of outright rally wins in recent weeks. They brought their Subaru Impreza home over two minutes ahead of the Ford Focus WRC of Eian Pritchard and Steve McPhee whilst Mathew Roberts and Sarah Edwards completed the podium places in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9.

The rally lived up to its reputation as being one of the toughest on the calendar with forty of the ninety-four cars that started the event failing to finish. Five South Shore crews were amongst those listed on the retirement list but a show of dogged determination, in the face of adversity, saw three others make the finish. 

Heading the way were Duncan Taylor, from Treales, and co-driver Stephen Graveson from Inskip as they brought the Myerscough College Subaru Impreza home in twenty-eighth place. That was no mean feat given they lost second gear at the start of the very first stage at ABP Fleetwood and had to complete Friday’s leg without it. With only time for a quick oil change on Saturday morning the problem couldn’t be resolved and as the day wore on Taylor found he had to hold the stick in third gear to prevent it slipping out. To cap it all they missed a split at Weeton that cost them three minutes so all things considered they were happy to finish!

Taylor’s sons, Adam and James, who were contesting the event in the Taylors Motorsport Ford Fiesta R2, thought their day was about to end early when the oil warning light flicked on at Weeton. Fearing the worst they made an early stage exit, incurring a two minute time loss in the process, but having then been able to check the fault they were relieved to find the engine wasn’t at risk. The warning light’s appearance had just been the work of some electrical gremlins! More electrical issues cost the brothers a further a minute on the penultimate stage but they made it to the finish thirty-fourth overall.

South Shore’s only other survivors Robert Kennedy and Catrin Jones brought their Nissan Micra home fifty-third overall, their day being spoilt by a six-minute time penalty that dropped them fifteen places.

It was a combination of gearbox and clutch problems that forced Bowen and Robinson to retire, whilst challenging for the win, at Weeton on Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day the Ford Fiesta S2500 of John Stone and Ian Davis had been forced out with differential problems.

An incident at Weeton marked the end of Andy Leech and Chris Sharpe-Simkiss’s run in the BMW M3 whilst the Blackpool & Fylde College BMW Mini Cooper manned by Mark Holmes and Craig Simkiss succumbed to transmission problems. Thomas Matthews and Simon Mills retired their VW Golf on the penultimate stage with driveshaft failure.

Duncan Taylor/Stephen Graveson (Subaru Impreza) – Blackpool Promenade