19 April 2009
Dodd wins tight Tour of Cumbria.
Carlisle racecourse has witnessed many a grandstand finish in its time, but four wheels managed to emulate four legs as the Pirelli Tour of Cumbria produced an MSA Gravel Rally Championship event that saw just ten seconds separate the leading three drivers.
Defending ANCRO champion Marcus Dodd edged out local ace Paul Bird and ex-champion Steve Perez, but that didn't tell the dramatic story of the rally as Dodd's Hyundai Accent WRC suffered throughout with a gearbox problem and erstwhile leader Bird lost nearly a minute when he overshot a chicane on the opening loop.
Try as he might, despite setting fastest time on all bar one stage, Bird couldn't quite reel Dodd in and, at the end, fell just 4.6secs short of victory.
"We had a problem with the gearbox from the very first stage and struggled with it all day as we had no actuator," Dodd explained, "We backed off on the long stages to try and save the tyres and then we noticed an oil leak on the final stage - which, luckily, turned out to be the dipstick - so I'm delighted with the victory and with a second successive ANCRO win, especially with the likes of Paul and Steve behind me."
Perez, for his part, toiled hard in the unseasonably warm and dusty conditions, but had to settle for third place in his Ford Focus WRC and gain more important points on the dauntingly fast tracks of Kielder Forest.
Behind the leading trio, the battle for Group N honours in the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge intensified with Welshman Simon Hughes getting the better of flu-ridden Irishman Daniel Barry and England's Nik Elsmore.
That means that, at the head of the series, Barry's lead is cut to just two points going into the next round on the Isle of Man but, with drivers still having to drop scores by the end of the championship, the battle is still wide open.
Owen Murphy came home in seventh place ahead of top Mintex Two-Wheel Drive competitor Steve Bannister (Ford Escort Mk II) with Alan Cookson claming eleventh place points overall after getting stuck in a ditch in his Subaru WRC. The Cornwall driver saw the Army come to his rescue when a competitor in the Land Rover Challenge stopped to tow him out. Murphy and Bannister also visited the many ditches, but managed to keep going.
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