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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Hunter snares victory in Malcolm Wilson Rally

A ROARING start sent Welsh Dragon Hugh Hunter to victory in the Malcolm Wilson Rally – by just three seconds.

Hunter and co-driver Andy Marchbank built up an early advantage with the fastest times in the first three stages and held off a late challenge from three-times winner Paul Bird to claim the title.

There was also a fine maiden run at the event for Flookburgh teenager Aaron McClure.

The 17-year-old finished third in his Nissan Micra in the RF1.4 class after a ding-dong battle throughout the day with Grange-over-Sands racer Ian Curwen.

But the day belonged to Hunter, whose Ford Focus World Rally Car dominated in the three morning stages in Whinlatter and Greystoke Forests and held on over the difficult terrain of Grizedale, Greystoke and Wythop in the afternoon.

Hunter and Marchbank blitzed stage one, beating nearest rival David Wright – the Grizedale Stages Rally winner in November, who became one of many victims of the run through Grizedale in intermittent sunshine, rain and hailstone showers – by four seconds. The lead was increased on stage two to five seconds and then 11 after stage three, but Grizedale was where Brid started to fly.

The Cumbrian racer finished second to Wright on stage four, but then clocked the fastest time on stage five – Grizedale South – which combined with Wright retiring, propelled him into second.

Bird and co-driver Kirsty Riddick continued their push on the return to Greystoke and had cut the gap to Hunter to just five seconds going into the final stage.

Bird again clocked the fastest time, but Hunter held on by the skin of his teeth in one of the most closely-contested rallies in years.

There was a similar contest between McClure and navigator Martyn Taylor and Curwen and Miles Whitelock.

McClure in his Micra ended up swapping seconds with Curwen’s Escort MK I, despite not finding the first run through Greystoke to his liking.

The Flookburgh teen got to grips with the Grizedale section and upped the pace, but so did Curwen and they arrived in service for the second time locked together.

Curwen decided he was going to get away over the second run through Greystoke and finished seconds ahead at the end of the seven-mile stage.

McClure was not about to accept that, however, and flew through the final three-mile Wythop stage, recording a time 10 seconds quicker than Curwen and getting the young crew into 50th place and third in class, two spots ahead of Curwen overall, but with the same time.

Ulverston’s Gary and Claire Rigg ended up using a tree to stop their Mini and were soon joined by Charlie Payne/Craig Thornley as their Focus WR1 slithered into the same piece of woodland.

There was a similar story in Grizedale as Alun Roberts flipped his Peugeot into a ditch and was joined sometime later by Jon Tucker, whose Subaru Imprezza broke its front wishbone going round the same corner and ground to a halt on the track just above their stranded rivals.

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