Darlington rally driver Paul Swift saw his hopes of a good result disappear when mechanical failure saw him retire after just seven stages of the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally based in Blackpool today.
Along with co-driver David Cox, the defending AS Performance North of England Tarmac Rally and Fuchs Titan Race ANCC Stage Rally Tarmac Champion was hoping to improve on last year's 15th place finish overall but his rally couldn't have got off to a worse start on Friday night when a spin on the opening Trax stage saw the car stranded in mud and by the time the marshals had extracted him, Paul was languishing down in 74th place.
Undeterred, the seven times British champion fought back with a top ten time on the opening Clifton stage to bump himself up to 39th which he followed up with a cracking sixth fastest on the second run in the 2.4 litre Millington Ford Escort Mk2 to elevate himself to 26th overall.
The next two tests were on Blackpool Promenade and in front of the usual massive crowd at the popular resort, Swift scorched to an incredible fourth fastest on each stage to hold an impressive 18th overall at the overnight halt.
Saturday dawned bright but cold and Swift immediately set about making up for lost time as he set a quite simply sensational fastest time on the opening Fleetwood stage to climb to 15th overall but on the very next run through the same stage, a half shaft broke meaning he had to limp out of the stage and into retirement.
A disappointed Paul commented: "I can't start to describe how I feel as I think we could have made a serious impact on the leaderboard if we hadn't broken the half shaft. I was on the back foot from the start as a silly spin on the very narrow kart track which comprised the opening stage saw us get stuck in the mud and we lost at least a minute. From there, the only way was up and our times were competitive but sadly, on SS7, there was a big bang and we were going nowhere. We've spent a lot of time developing the engine so we now need to look at the transmission as we are producing a lot more power which leads to things like this happening. Right now, I'm off for a pint to help ease the pain!"
Paul's next scheduled event is the Manx National Rally over the weekend of 10/11th May.
Paul would like to thank his sponsors and partners for their help in 2013.
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