Originators of UK closed road motorsport

The View from the 000 Safety car at the LFNWS

As the front running cars pulled into the finish on Booths Garstang car park the joy on all the crew’s faces was plain to see. None more so than Chris Ingram and his American Co-driver Alex Kuhirani who had just taken the overall win and with it the lead in the Probite British Rally Championship.

This was a stark contrast to the look of panic and disarray on crew’s faces at the in-control at service just hours earlier. The front running crews had completed just three of the five morning stages and we really feel for the back running crews who had not even covered any competitive mileage at all. Not quite what they had signed up for.

Given the hype on social media leading up to this event possibly due to its new BRC status and ITV coverage was like nothing i’ve seen for a long time. Understandably the morning’s loop hadn’t quite lived up to expectations for many, including the organisers!

There had been three different incidents holding up all three of the first stages including medical emergencies, with time and resources lost the organisers had to take the very tough decision to cancel stages four and five and bring everyone back to service.It was only then when the first cars arrived in service that a new time schedule was quickly being formulated. Then  re-group and go out again on thirty second starts. 

From our 000 safety car out on the stages checking stage setup, marshals and spectator locations. We didn’t know about the disruption behind us. It was quite a different story from our car. The stages were all set up correctly with marshals all in place. A credit to the stage commanders and their teams.

Ron Cowan    Tony Driver    Cliff Simmons    Flint

Spectators were also well placed and well behaved even though some had been there all day and not seen a car driven in anger yet. And should be commended for sticking with it as the afternoon action was a thriller. Their charitable donations will go to some very good causes.

It must be said a huge thankyou to the biggest heroes of the event were the marshals, and many like our 2300 Club team in their wet and windy Hawthornthwaite positions hadn’t seen any competition at all in eight hours on duty. But when finally the sharp end of the rally arrived it was all worth it! “ And how they laughed” said 2300 Club Chairman Neil Molyneux.

Wow! What an afternoon!

The now wet and muddy technical stages provided the challenge the competitors and spectators were looking for. Ingram needed to go hard and careful to hold on to his lead from the morning. But these world class stages would take their toll on his nearest challenger, Osian Pryce who retired his Fiesta with a mechanical issue. Others lost time with punctures. Even the headline sponsor Legend Fires own John Stone falling foul of the slippy stages retiring off the road in a ditch.The young ace Max McRae suffering the same fate. 

2300 Club’s own John Cope driving car 0 didn’t finish. Retiring with brake failure. “The stages were really slippery even in the morning when it was dry with damp patches,” Said John. And went on to say “The second pass through the stage was difficult, now wet with lots of mud pulled out from the first run. Stage 3 – Crossgill was my favourite, a proper technical stage”.

Any rally is not immune to hold ups or stage cancellations, even WRC events. That’s rallying!  But the very thing that makes our Lancashire stages so special, fast, technical and their very unforgiving nature is also their downfall. The many superb YouTube videos demonstrate this, tree’s on one side Stone walls on the other, with a slippy undulating surface in-between. Commanding plenty of respect and leaving drivers wanting more. 

Even though, warm and dry on the day, 2300 Club member Clive Molyneux had one of the toughest jobs on the day, as Deputy Clerk of the Course. It was the CofC team that had to make the difficult decisions on the running of the rally. After eighteen months of nights and weekends working to produce this route as volunteers, cancelling stages must have felt like losing a finger to save the hand. A fantastic job to turn this around like they did. The team should be applauded for their stirling work to deliver a thrilling afternoon’s rallying in our own backyard, after a morning everyone wanted to forget. A team with less experience may not have achieved that.

Congratulations to our 2013 John Easson Award Winner Chris Ingram and co-driver Alex Kihurani who had taken victory by around half a minute over their competition. Chris said “Today was a bit messy. This is such a great rally. The first two stages did the job. Then I just had to manage it”.

Following the hype on social media before the event, there has been some negativity in the comments after the event. To the naysayers I would say “when this event runs again you will be very welcome as volunteers, you will get your say. You might even learn something. But you never know you might even enjoy it! We did!”.

We look forward to the coverage on ITV4 and ITVX on Tuesday the 2nd of April at 17.45

Words by Graham ‘Flint’ Ryding

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