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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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Allingham masters Grizedale ice to take rally crown

FOREST master Alex Allingham conquered treacherous conditions to win the 2012 Grizedale Stages Rally.

On a day when the morning frost failed to melt away, leaving icy sheets in dangerous spots on the woodland roads Allingham was involved in an almighty tussle with 2009 champion Paul Bird until the very last stage.

The first-time winner held the lead after the first, second and third stages, but Bird and co-driver Kirsty Riddick were always clawing away and were never further behind than the 18-second deficit they conceded on the opening run in front of committed spectators who faced icy roads themselves just to make it to the course.

Bird and Riddick clocked the fastest times on the second and third stages and a super-fast run over the second Dunnerdale stage – the fourth overall – put the Furness and District Motor Club pair ahead by 14 seconds.

That left the final, 17-mile stage back in the forests of Grizedale to settle matters, but Bird – as with so many of the big names before him – came a cropper, with Allingham able to race his Subaru Impreza to the finish line for victory, Irish driver Josh Moffett finishing second and Malton’s Oliver Mellors third.

Bird was not the first, nor the last, driver to find the icy conditions too much to handle.

From the very start, cars went skidding into verges, with reigning champion and top seed David Wright failing to finish even the morning’s first stage, before the sun had chance to have an effect on much of the course.

He was followed out by another former winner Steve Petch – champion in 2002 and 2003 – whose Mitsubishi Evo 9 ended up on its roof in a stream bed.

Petch was not the only entrant to suffer such a fate as Philip Mcvay also flipped over on the testing second stage, which took drivers from the heart of Grizedale, south past Satterthwaite and out of the forest near Coniston Water.

Numerous others came close to a similar predicament, with one sharp corner at Low Bowkerstead claiming several victims in the second stage, car after car misjudging the grip on the surface and failing to brake in time.

Both Steve Head – himself a winner of the event back in 2000 – and Mike Winfield were pulled from a ditch by a gaggle of spectators in the space of 10 minutes, while several of their rivals found themselves pointing in the wrong direction and narrowly avoiding following them in.

Number three seed Tom Cave, runner-up in the British Rally Championship this year and on his Grizedale Stages debut, fell behind early in proceedings, losing a wealth of time on the first stage and dropping more than five minutes back from Allingham.

To his credit, he kept going and continued to climb the leaderboard with some strong runs, only to break down less than 100 yards from the finishing line of the final stage – his official result a retirement despite his car finally limping past the end-point some time later.

There were no such worries for Allingham and co-driver Mark Glennerster, a member of the Furness and District Motor Club though, recording the best spilt times in the first and last of the five stages and coming home more than three minutes and 12 seconds in front to take victory.

For the South Cumbrian drivers, Ambleside’s Graham Gaskell and Grange co-driver Heather Grisedale, were second in the 1.4S category in their Vauxhall Nova, finishing in 1.03:38, with Barrow navigator Chris Williams and driver Gary Wright fourth in the class, their MG ZR 1:44 behind.

Flookburgh teenager Aaron McClure finished third in the R3 class in his Ford Fiesta ST, despite being held up on by Head’s crash, as marshalls slowed him down to pass.

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