SPECIAL Stage rallying retuned to the South Lakes forests on Saturday following a 12-month absence with Furness & District Motor Club’s Hippo Motor Group Grizedale Stages Rally.

Competitors from across the UK and Ireland contested four stage which made up 40 miles. The schedule comprised of a pair of 17-mile tests through Grizedale Forest with two shorter runs through Dunnerdale Forest sandwiched in between.

By the end of the day it was Irish eyes who were smiling as victory went to Josh Moffett and Keith Moriarty in a Ford Focus R5. Durham duo Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson finished as runners-up in their Ford Fiesta WRC while Scots crew John Wink and John Forrest completed the podium in a Hyundai i20 R5. Event sponsor Thomas Preston and co-driver Carl Williamson finished fourth in the Hippo Group Skoda Fabia R5.

It was a day of mixed fortunes for Cumbrian competitors, but they would not be denied a share of the prizes. Penrith pair Mark Shaw and James Coxon took the top honours in Class Two, bringing their Talbot Sunbeam home 14th overall after surviving a first-stage excursion into a ditch.

Caroline Lodge picked up two awards; the former Kirkby-in-Furness resident took the prize for finishing first Female Contestant together with the Class Two runners-up award after finishing 16th overall as co-driver to Carlisle’s Barry Lindsay in his Peugeot 206. Marcus and Helen Noble, from Penrith, claimed the awards for finishing third in Class Three in their Ford Escort Mk2.

Windermere’s Gary Tomlinson and co-driver Andy Murphy had been on target for a top-10 finish until a last-stage incident saw them drop close to 30 minutes. Their Subaru Impreza suffered heating issues throughout the day and when the car spun and stalled it proved reluctant to re-start and the resultant time loss saw them finish 48th.

Finishing just one place behind the Kankku Impreza was the Volkswagen Polo of David Barr, from Hawkshead, and his Kendal co-driver Neil Mitchell Hunter. Three minutes of time-penalties denied them a Class One prize, but they were delighted with their result on only their second rally.

Millom’s Chris Williams, duty manager at the Lakeland Motor Museum, fulfilled a long-time ambition of competing in a Ford Escort Cosworth, his favourite car in his youth.

Williams, who was co-driving Dubliner Paul McCann, had high hopes of a top result, but their day was blighted from the outset by an electrical problem that put the car down on power.

Things went from bad to worse on the road section back to Grizedale following the two Dunnerdale tests when the clutch failed, forcing them to retire.

Ambleside exile Graham Gaskell, best known for his exploits in a Vauxhall Nova, wheeled out his new Subaru Impreza and, together with Dave Gibson, finished 32nd overall.

A private battle between two Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club Ford Escort Mk2 pilots was won by Bryan Gibson who finished 37th overall together with co-driver Katy Mashiter. Ashley Hodge and Steve Pugh had a troubled day, finishing in 54th place.