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The 21st North West Stages, sponsored by Legend Fires, was set to be a memorable rally being only the 2nd closed rally in England and the first in the North. Simon Bowen & Richard Robinson (Impreza WRC) set the early pace going fastest on the first 3 stages before dropping over a minute on the final stage of the opening loop. Peter Taylor & Andrew Roughead (Fiesta WRC) were fastest through that stage to take the lead by 9 seconds in to first service. Alex Laffey & Stuart Loudon (Fiesta R5) were just 9 seconds behind, with Steve Simpson & Pat Walsh (Fiesta R5) tied with them in 2nd overall.

Laffey, Bowen & Paul MacKinnon were joint fastest on the 5th stage, with Bowen clawing back more time with fastest on stage 6 and 2nd fastest on stage 7 before the 2nd running of Weeton saw the Impreza’s clutch give up and retirement beckoned. MacKinnon, co-driven by Paul Beaton (Fiesta WRC) went fastest on stage 7, moving up in to the top 5 overall. Taylor took stage 8 but his lead had eroded to just 5 seconds over a hard charging Neil Simpson & Michael Gibson (Fabia R5).

Laffey and Neil Simpson then went fastest on stage 9 and Neil Simpson now lead Taylor by 2s with Laffey just 2s further back in 3rd. Laffey took stage 10 and with two to go, Neil Simpson lead by 1s from Taylor and Laffey. Taylor blitzed the penultimate stage to retake the lead by 4s from Laffey, with Neil Simpson now 3rd. Neil Simpson took the final stage through Weeton from Taylor and then Laffey, giving Taylor a hard fought victory by 5s. Laffey and Neil Simpson were joint 2nd but thanks to countback Laffey just edged out Simpson in what proved to be a memorbale rally for many reasons.

MacKinnon took 4th overall, behind the fierce battle between the top 3, with Aaron Newby & Andrew leech (Impreza) completing the top 5. In the 2WD branch of the rally Darren Atkinson & Phil Sandham (Escort MkII) had been running as high of 8th overall but finished 10th overall and over a minute ahead of their nearest 2WD rivals.

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