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Tuesday, 02 June 2015

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Grizedale rally brings the need for speed

COMPETITION will be hotter than ever when a strong field battles it out for the Grizedale Stages Rally crown tomorrow.

A field of more than 60 cars will tackle 42 miles over five stages, with a clutch of former champions and a high-flying British Rally Championship ace in the running.

Last year’s winner David Wright will lead the field through Grizedale Forest and over Dunnerdale as the number one seed, but he will be pushed all the way by the likes of Paul Bird, Steve Petch and Tom Cave when they leave Coniston a little before 10am tomorrow morning.

Both Bird and Petch have triumphed over the testing Grizedale course before – tomorrow’s race adding a new challenge in the shape of a mammoth 17-mile afternoon stage – while Cave finished second in this year’s British championship.

All will be pushing for success and clerk of the course Graham Parker is expecting a thrilling event.

“If you look at the top 10, any of them are as good an entry as any national rally has had this year,” he said. “The likes of Tom Cave, he came second in the British Rally Championship and he can only manage third on the seeding list, that’s the level we are at.

“That’s the interesting thing, there isn’t one driver who you would say is definitely going to win, it’s going to be close.

“Tom is a quick driver, but he hasn’t got the best car and he hasn’t been to Grizedale before – I think he’s in for a bit of a shock.”

As well as the top seeds, a host of South Cumbrians will tackle the race tomorrow, which takes in two morning stages in Grizedale, followed by two lunchtime runs over Dunnerdale and an afternoon return to the forest for one final double-length stage.

Among them will be Windermere’s Garry Tomlinson, the highest local seed in the number six car, Barrow navigator Chris Williams – riding alongside Gary Wright – and Flookburgh teen Aaron McClure.

They have all driven the Grizedale course before, whether in this event or in the springtime Malcolm Wilson Rally, and Parker knows that could be an advantage as the set-up is unique.

“I’ve been to rallies all over the country and I can tell you that Grizedale is different to any other stage,” he said.

“There is a lot more flow and twist to it than any other forest I can think of.”

A number of spectator car parks will be open in Grizedale tomorrow, at Low Bowkerstead, south of Sattherthwaite, Machells Coppice, near Coniston Water, and High Barn, Moor Top and High Cross, each north of the Grizedale Forest visitors centre.

All car parks cost £10 per car, with proceeds going to the Coniston Mountain Rescue Team and the Forestry Commission.

All spectators are asked not to park on roadside verges, so as to avoid problems with traffic flow and local residents accessing their homes.

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