The weather played a major role in Saturday’s Malcolm Wilson Rally with conditions in the Lakeland forests a contributory factor to almost forty cars being forced into retirement.

By the finish of the eight special stages that made for over forty-two miles of timed to the second competition Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton took a well-earned victory in their Ford Focus WRC. It wasn’t, however, plain sailing for the eventual winners as their car developed a misfire and they dropped half a minute through the seven mile Greystoke test, the final stage of the rally.

Fortunately for the Scots crew, they had enough in hand over Carnforth’s Ian Joel and his co-driver Graeme Wood who, having lead the rally earlier in the day, finished as runners-up in their Ford Escort Cosworth.

Almost one hundred cars started the event from Dovenby Hall, the M-Sport Headquarters close to Cockermouth but by the end of the opening pair of stages in the Whinlatter Forest that number had been seriously reduced. Amongst the early retirees were Penrith duo Mark Shaw and James Coxon who knocked not one, but two, wheels off their Talbot Sunbeam in an off-road excursion.

Others on the retirement list included Kendal brothers-in-law Pete Gorst and Phil King with their Vauxhall Nova developing a fuel pump problem and Grasmere duo Phillip Lilley and John Ellwood whose Mini Cooper had a sticking throttle issue. Ambleside exile Graham Gaskell was another making an early exit after his Subaru Impreza sustained suspension damage on a rough track in Comb.

On a brighter note, Ambleside’s David Barr and Kendal’s Neil Mitchell-Hunter won the Class RF1.4 awards after finishing 44th overall in their Volkswagen Polo but only having survived an altercation with a log pile on the second stage. Burton’s Dave Head just missed out on an award, bringing his Peugeot 106 home fourth in Class 1400C.

More top class honours went to two South Lakeland exiles. Tom Woodburn, once of Swarthmoor, won the Historic Class as co-driver to George Lepley in a Hillman Avenger while Caroline Lodge, formerly of Kirkby-in-Furness, co-drove Carlisle’s Barry Lindsay to victory in Class B10 in their Peugeot 206.

The result gave Lodge double cause for celebration as it put her in the lead of the ANECCC Stage Rally Championship. It could have been different however had Lindsay not kept them clear of the trees after the car hit a huge patch of water in Broughton Moor launching it onto the grass. Woodburn’s only worry came in Grizedale where the car’s steering took a knock and a rear suspension bush gave way making for some interesting handling!

The real heroes of the day were the members of Morecambe Car Club, Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club and West Cumbria Motorsport Club who organised the event and all the safety marshals who were forced to brave the elements. They faced driving hail, sleet and snow and kept smiling through it all, a big well done to each and every one of them!