Motorsport history will made this weekend when the 2019 Legend Fires North West Stages Rally, in partnership with Simpson’s Skoda, becomes the first closed road motorsport event ever to be staged in the north-west.
The rally, which aims to raise thousands of pounds for charity, is going ahead thanks to the co-operation of Wyre Borough Council, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, Garstang Town Council and parish councils throughout the route.
Starting with a ceremonial start in Garstang town centre tomorrow evening at around 7pm, Saturday sees the rally start from its new headquarters at Myerscough College at 8.30am.
Competitors will then head off to the closed roads special stages, the first of which, the Nicky Nook Stage to the east of Garstang, gets under way just before 9am.
Spectators can also catch the rally action on the Staynall Stage that first runs at 10am near Stalmine.
Both the Nicky Nook and Staynall Stages are run three times during the day.
Up until its latest staging in 2017, the event had been based on the Fylde coast, with Promenade stages at Blackpool and Fleetwood.
Friday’s ceremonial start promises a carnival atmosphere complete with the renowned Samba Espirito drum band.
The band will play ahead of car one as it reaches the High Street shortly before 7pm, after which the Town Cryer will announce the start as cars proceed over the official start ramp.
Leading crews will then be flagged away by Garstang Mayor Leah Hynes and Youth Mayor Robert Ibison.
Crews will be interviewed while awaiting their run over the ramp.
Rally director Dave Read said: “This promises to be the biggest rally start for a clubman rally in the UK and it’s largely thanks to the efforts of the Garstang Town Council and the Myerscough College Motorsports Department.”
Leading the field away at car one is Arron Newby, co-driven by Andrew Leech, who won the event in 2017.
Hambleton duo Simon Bowen and Richard Robinson, who won the 2016 rally, are seeded at car six in their Subaru Impreza WRC and former World Rally Championship contender Neil Wearden, from Preesall, starts at car 46.
Wearden, who is co-driven by Hambleton’s Callum Cross, takes the wheel of the Hyundai i20, in which he won in his class on the Questmead Stages near Wigan earlier this month, when Bowen was the outright winner.
His car is a WRC replica, initially built for Top Gear Magazine but an almost standard 1.6l 2WD car.
Blackpool South Shore Motor Club member John Stone, whose company Legend Fires are the event’s main sponsors, is seeded at car nine in his Ford Fiesta WRC.
He is just one of a number of South Shore members and Garstang and Preston Motor Club members who are hoping to go well on home ground.
They all face some tough competition, with the 120-car field having attracted some of the UK’s top tarmac rally crews.
The final outcome will only become known at the champagne-spraying finish, which is scheduled to take place in the Myerscough College International Horse Arena at 5.45pm on Saturday evening.