Organiser: Furness & District Motor Club When: November 26 Where: Ambleside, Cumbria Championship ANCC; ANECCC; Five of Clubs. Stages: 6 Starters: 69
It was a birthday to remember for Stephen Petch as the 33-year-old, along with Michael Wilkinson on the notes, survived a late scare to bring their Ford Fiesta R5+ home 16 seconds ahead of last year’s runners up David Wright and Steve Pugh.
With the overnight sub-zero temperatures still prevailing at the rally start the opening two runs through the tricky Dunnerdale test were always going to prove problematic for some.
Not for Tarmac aces Donagh Kelly and Conor Foley though, as the Irish duo headed to Grizedale with a 5s advantage over the eventual winners.
Wright and Pugh were next up, albeit 14s in arrears, in their Ford Focus WRC01 after a spin dropped them 10s.
Matching Wright’s time in his Mitsubishi Lancer E5 was Steven Clark, who had British Junior Rally Championship pilot Blair Brown on the notes. Euan Thorburn – driving a Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time having competed in a Peugeot 208 T16 this year – was being extra careful not to damage the car, and completed the top five.
Grizedale Forest was bathed in brilliant sunshine but there were still plenty of ice patches on the sections of track shaded by the trees waiting to catch out the unwary. Kelly was an early victim on stage three, Grizedale South, handing the lead to Petch who shared fastest time with Wright, now in second overall. Clark was third, one second up on Thorburn. The latter had dropped time after picking up a puncture while Adrian Hetherington and Ronan O’neill were up to fifth in their Toyota Corolla WRC.
Stage four, Grizedale North, was then cancelled to allow access to the Air Ambulance to attend to a spectator who had suffered a sudden illness.
Crews were then directed to service at Ambleside before revisting Grizedale for two afternoon stages.
Petch was quickest though the opening South test that followed a similar, but shorter, route to that used for stage three. Clark dropped time with brake issues, allowing Thorburn to snatch third, but Clark still held on to fourth.
Stephen Simpson and Patrick Walsh had started the test in seventh place before parking their Fiesta S2000 in a ditch. With the car beached on a log there was no escape and they were forced to wait for the recovery vehicle.
With only the 7.65-mile Grizedale North remaining to complete the schedule, the pressure was on Petch. A puncture just past the halfway mark resulted in an inevitable time loss but by then he’d done enough to ensure victory was his. Wright finished a comfortable second whilst Thorburn retained the final podium place, but only just, as despite his brake problems, Clark set fastest time to finish just a second behind.
Hetherington retained fifth despite a spin costing around 20s with Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg, who went better after changing their Fiesta’s set-up at service, finishing just two seconds behind.
David Howells and Jamie Edwards enjoyed a troublefree run to bring their new Subaru Impreza home seventh ahead of the Lancer E9 of Scots duo John Wink and John Forrest.
A late charge saw Brendan Cumiskey and Ronan O’kane grab ninth in their Impreza, finishing two seconds ahead of Steve Petch and John Richardson.
Fred Milne and Chris Williams had been in contention for a top 10 finish before they departed the fray in the final stage after hitting a bank in their Lancer E9 and pushing the fan through the radiator.
Event sponsor Thomas Preston had been holding a top 10 place leaving Dunnerdale before getting it all wrong, right in front of his invited guests, in stage three. Having already stuck his Skoda Fabia R5 in a ditch and losing reverse gear and six minutes in the process, he and co-driver Carl Williamson then repeated the feat on reaching the VIP area. At least it gave his followers some hands-on rally experience as they helped push the stricken Skoda back onto the track. Preston eventually finished 37th overall.
Steve Green and Michael Gilmore took Class 1 awards in their Nissan Micra after finishing 15th overall, having spent much of the day catching slower cars. Class 2 awards went to William Creighton and Paddy Robinson in their Peugeot 208R2 after they overhauled the Peugeot 206 of early leaders Barry Lindsay and Caroline Lodge who slipped to third.
Class 3 honours went to Mark Holmes and Craig Simkiss who came close to visiting a stage five ditch in their Ford Escort Mk1. Having survived that close call they also collected the top two-wheel-drive awards after finishing 14th overall. Mike Wolff, a recent rally returnee following a 20-year absence, and co-driver Mark Twiname claimed the Class 4 prizes.
Having won the penultimate round of the Welsh Championship, Kevin Davies/ Dale Bowen finished the year by securing victory on the final round, the Rali Cilwendeg on Saturday night. The pair were never headed and finished and came through to repeat their 2013 success on the rally.
John Davies/ Eurig Davies were looking for their fifth win together on the classic event but had to settle for second place. Wyn Owens/jenny Evans put in an excellent performance, finishing in fourth and taking the Expert Class win.
After picking up an unnecessary twominute penalty for early arrival at a control on the opening section of the Automark Farrington Trophy Rally, Guy Woodcock/ Andy Pullan fought back to take a comfortable win on a highly demanding event. This was the fourth Farrington win for Woodcock and the third time in a row that Pullan had taken the Farrington Trophy.
Their task was made easier by the retirement before Petrol of both Steven John Williams/ Baz Green and John Paul Williams/ Roger Evans, the latter suffering ECU problems on their Impreza. Ian Lloyd/ Cyril Jones led but went out with clutch failure later on. This allowed young Carl Acott, who had Stu Thomas on the maps, to take the runner up spot.