Darlington rally driver Paul Swift overcame the slippery conditions as well as a last minute drama to clinch a superb third place overall on today’s Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally held at Croft Circuit, North Yorkshire.
Along with co-driver David Cox, the pair set out their intentions on the opening stage by setting second fastest time and over the next two stages, they consolidated that position as they gave chase to eventual winner Kevin Procter in his Subaru WRC.
The 2.0 litre Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 duo set third fastest time on SS4 and at the lunchtime halt, they were just over half a minute down on Procter with third placed Chris Anderson (Ford Fiesta) some 18 seconds behind.
Stage five saw a minor delay during which a heavy rain shower handicapped the slick-shod car of Swift and saw him drop six vital seconds to Anderson. On the penultimate stage, the Ford Escort pairing again dropped some time but still held a slender lead over Anderson going into the last stage as darkness fell.
The mechanical glitch that caused Paul to lose time on SS6 was investigated by the team and a slipping clutch was duly revealed. With only four minutes of service time left, the crew managed to get to the start of the final stage but the problem persisted and the resulting time loss saw Swift and Cox drop to third on the very last stage after losing nearly half a minute.
Despite his frustration, the result equalled his best result on last year’s Jack Frost Stages Rally and more to the point; it was valuable set-up time for the car in readiness for this season’s MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.
Seven-time British champion Paul commented: “Of course it was disappointing to lose runner-up place on the very last stage but I’m lucky the car made it to the finish so I’ll settle for third. We drove the car home and it gave up the ghost completely on the way so that was how close it was. My main priority was to get more track time in the car and to work on the settings and I feel we achieved that today. What with this and the upcoming Jack Frost Stages later in the month, we hope to be in the best possible shape for the opening round of the series which kicks off on the Epynt ranges in Wales in March.”
The Darlington and District Motor Club-organised Jack Frost Stages Rally in association with Autogas 2000 and Cartersport takes place at Croft on Sunday 22nd January 2012.
1, Kevin Procter/Dave Bellerby – Subaru Impreza – 56:34
2, Chris Anderson/Chris Thirling – Ford Fiesta – 58:31
3, Paul Swift/David Cox – Ford Escort Mk2 – 58:54
4, Martyn Tinker/Giles Dykes – Lotus Exige – 59:26
5, Peter Slights/Emma Slights – Ford Escort – 1:00:05
6, Alex Taylor/Richard Winstanley – Subaru Forester – 1:00:15
7, Craig Pennington/Andy Mather – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 1:01:32
8, Andrew Fawcett/Chris Purvis – Vauxhall Nova – 1:02:08
9, Peppe Planeta/Chris Williams – Ford Cosworth WRC – 1:02:37
10, Joseph Redmond/Miguel Marini – Peugeot 306 – 1:02:59
Paul would like to thank his sponsors and partners for their help and looks forward to another successful season in 2012, for more information check out www.paulswift.com
Smith and Allan Classic Oils www.smithandallan.com
Smart Independent Financial Advisors www.smartifa.co.uk
Evalu8d learning and development www.evalu8d.com
Carpet Time www.carpet-time.co.uk
Rockliffe Hall www.rockliffehall.com
Other Rally Partners
James Bean Motorsport
Pirelli Tyres www.pirelli.com
Cleveland Motorhomes www.clevelandmotorhomes.co.uk
Welund Training Solutions www.welundtraining.com
Avo Suspension www.avouk.com
For further information, please visit www.paulswift.com or via Paul Swift Precision Driving, PO Box 116, Darlington, County Durham, DL1 9BT.
Picture (courtesy of Marcus Andrews) Paul Swift and David Cox on their way to third place on the Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally at Croft Circuit.