Bird flies highest at Blackpool rally

Arron Newby at the North West Stages rally in Blackpool.
Arron Newby at the North West Stages rally in Blackpool.
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Last weekend saw the annual running of the two-day, North West Stages Rally, once again sponsored by Legend Fires – the company owned by past winner of the event – rally driver John Stone.

Despite the seemingly never ending recession, the organisers attracted a quality entry of 94 crews from all over the U.K. – including the welcome return to competition of the Armed Forces Rally Team in their amazing, white Land Rover Wolf’s which dispel the myth that such vehicles are staid and slow.

The event is based from Blackpool’s Norbreck Hotel, however the organising team have built an enviable rapport with local councils and land owners and it’s on this land where the competitive motoring takes place.

In very slippery conditions throughout the rally, driving the course opening car was Bolton-le-Sands teenager Arron Newby (18) in the Pirelli/TEG-Sport Subaru Impreza – providing an opportunity of an extended practice opportunity for the talented teenager.

Local co-driver Katy Mashiter (Morecambe) partnered Ian Curwen in Ian’s newly acquired Vauxhall Nova, however the duo retired at the Saturday morning start – along with several others – following enforced delays due to an accident near Clifton the previous evening, the crew electing to conserve funds, save the car and fight another day.

Organisers had packed 26 special stages into the event (21 of them on Saturday), using venue’s such as Fleetwood and Blackpools’ Promenades, Weeton Army Camp, Fleetwood Docks, Preston Dockland and Clifton Water treatment Plant.

As usual there was a motorsport exhibition inside a large hall at the Norbreck Castle Hotel for visitors and enthusiasts to enjoy.

Paul Bird/Aled Davies (Ford Focus WRC 07, seeded 2) took the lead from the beginning and held a 40+ second lead overnight, extending this to a winning margin of 1min 26secs at the finish.

Making a welcome return to the U.K. competition scene was the Armed Forces Rally Team – all competing in Land Rover Wolf 300 tdi’s.

The crews total competitive commitment in these 2.5tonne ‘missiles’ is as inspiring as it is awesome and a sight to behold.

All crews finished the gruelling event, and their category was won by the vastly experienced Major Alan Paramore/James Sutherland.

Possibly the youngest competitor on the event was 17 year old Hazel Johnson, co-driven by Steven Butler.

Hazel was driving her father’s (a previous competitor on this same rally) Nissan Micra 1000cc, seeded at 88.

The duo finished a very creditable 54th overall and also took the award for third in their Class. From a total of 94 competitors, 33 retired – indicating the gruelling nature of the rally.