“John and Abi Ruddock sparkled in the sun, putting on a dominant display to take a convincing win on a sun drenched Lakeland Classic Rally, their task eased somewhat when nearest challengers Ross Butterworth/Andy Pullan and John Bertram/Andrew Fish both retired their Escorts leaving the runners up spot to the TR4 of Ryan Pickering/Edward Phippard, a fitting reward for their long trek up to Cumbria from Southampton.
The Lake District Classic has, justifiably, become a “Must Do” event of the NESCRO regulars since the organising team of Ron Palmer and David Agnew took over running the show and an excellent entry of over 40 cars turned up at the Penrith Truck Stop ready for their latest offering which featured 20 tests and two regularities, all within 10 miles of the rally base, with several new venues on offer including the regularity which was run on private roads. The opening test was the traditional blast in among the massed ranks of huge articulated truck and was a Ruddock benedit, John and Abi’s Escort tying with the Viva HB of David Ruddock/Kevin Carruthers.
A short trip over the M6 motorway led to an equally short test at the Rheged visitor centre and the first of a string of fastest times for the Ruddocks. Paul Brereton/Maurice Ellison (RS2000) understeered into a large grass bank but continued undaunted while the Hargreaves/Naylor Dolomite Sprint picked up a maximum for a wrong test. Next came two tests in Penrith Auction Mart which again went to the Ruddocks, they were pushed hard on the first one by the quick Mini 1275 GT of Neal and Eileen Horsfall who then spoiled it all by posting a wrong test on the second one. Pre rally favourites Butterworth/Pullan made ab early exit here when their Escort broke a driveshaft, while the Alexander/Parry Viva HB cut out mid test with an electrical problem.
More tests at Penrith Rugby Club and rally ace Paul Bird’s poultry farm saw the Ruddocks continue to set the pace their nearest challengers now the newly rebuilt Mk1 Escort of John Bertram/Andrew Fish which had, literally, just been finished the previous evening. Next came a new and interesting regularity, set in the grounds of Lowther Castle and utilising a superb forest track plus a large tarmac area that was an assembly point for tanks during World War Two. Bertram/Fish tied with the big Volvo PV 544 of Peter and Dougie Humphries dropping just 5 seconds with Dave Marsden/Mike Garstang (Cortina Mk1) on 7 and Pickering/Phippard on 9. The Yanwath regularity saw the demise of Keen/Philips TR6 which ground to a half with a driveshaft problem. The Ruddocks took the mornings remaining three tests, featuring the usual blast down the tarmac at Highfield Farm and return visit to Penrith Auction Mart to arrive at the lunch halt with a 15 second lead over Bertram/Fish, Marsden/Garstang were performing heroics to have the Cortina up into 3rd spot and Entwhistle/Hargreaves were fourth despite having concerns about the “Orangebox” Mini’s oil pressure. The problem was trace to a sticking relief valve and repaired during the lunch break.
Suitably refreshed, the crews commenced the afternoon session with a return to the auction mart where the Ruddocks continued where they had left off before lunch, although they were matched on the opener by the Horsfalls Mini.
A run down the A6 and through Shap took crews to the perennial favourite at Waters Farm where the organisers strategically placed code boards caused quite a few crews to incur extra penalties. This was followed by a very dusty trip through Hardondale Quarry where Ruddock just headed a hard charging Dave Marsden and t’other Ruddock’s Viva HB. A return run through Water Farm again caused problems; the organisers had cunningly deviated the route and moved the code boards, causing the navigators a bit of head scratching. Pickering/Phippard were clearly quickest on this one which saw the Craig/Leary MG B lose its exhaust, the crew stopping mid test to retrieve it and bung it in the boot! Bertram/Fish’s challenge ended here when the suffered a puncture, stopping to change the wheel at the end of the test, they found the hub damaged and their fine run was over.
A second run over the Yanwath regularity came next and saw Pickering/Phippard best dropping just 3 seconds with Marsden/Garstang and Ruddock/Cattuthers on 8 and the Humphreys on 12. The last two tests were a return to Highfield and a final blast round the truck stop lorry park, the two Ruddocks tied on the former while John just headed David on the final test to wrap up what has been a very commanding display. It was a day for some really outstanding performance with Pickering doing well to bring the TR4 home in second spot, Entwhistles third place in the relatively underpowered 998 Mini was a great drive while Marsden drove like a demon to bring the Cortina home fourth, only 4 seconds away from a podium finish.
Once again the Lake District Classic lived up to it’s reputation as one of the top Northern events fantastic tests, slick organisation and a prompt results service, with some happy and contented crews making their way home after a hugely enjoyable and entertaining days sport and if the Wigton Motor Club can retain the services of the same organising team they are assured of another bumper entry next year.”
Ed Graham, Hexham & District MC – CofC of the John Robson Rally