Some of the nation’s most renowned rally stars flocked to our region last weekend as the Grizedale Stages took place in South Lakeland.

For those who contest forest rallies, the event has long formed the traditional end of the season and that was the case again this year.

Following a big battle at the head of the field, the event was won by Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress with their Proton Iriz R5.

The pairing went into the final stage 14 seconds behind the lead in third place, but a stunning time through the mammoth 18-mile finale saw them take a convincing victory – 46 seconds faster than anyone else through the stage to secure a 45-second victory.

Mellor’s performance in the final stage relegated Jock Armstrong’s Subaru Impreza to second place, and Stephen Petch finished just four second behind with his Ford Fiesta RS WRC in third.

Further down the field, the Cumbrian crews were battling hard – Spadeadam’s Barry Lindsay and Caroline Lodge locked in an intense battle for class victory with Penrith’s Mark Shaw and James Coxon.

After the opening Grizedale stages, Lindsay and Lodge had taken a four-second lead with their 1600cc Peugeot 206, but the Penrith crew pulled back another five seconds with their Talbot Sunbeam on the two Dunnerdale Stages.

Heading into what was the longest test of the season for many of the crews, the Spadeadam duo trailed the lead by a single second.

“We were up for the challenge and attacked the stage right from the start,” said Lindsay.

“We knew it would be hard to maintain that pace throughout the full length of the stage,” he continued, “and sure enough, about a quarter of a way in, I was caught out on a quick right-hander and exited along a bank!”

Luckily there was no damage and Lindsay’s Peugeot barely stopped as he managed to scramble back onto the road. With just a handful of seconds lost, he and Lodge regained their composure and continued the push.

“Back up to speed we continued to push hard,” said Linday.

“We were pretty close to the limit but it paid off and we leapfrogged not just into the class lead but also ahead of the bigger-engine Escort crews.”

Bringing their Peugeot home first in class, Lindsay and Lodge also finished an impressive 11th overall with Shaw and Coxon just behind in 12th.

“It’s now a race against time to prepare the car for the final Tarmac event of the year at the Christmas Stages at Croft on Sunday,” he concluded.

Nick Taylor and Helen Harkness brought there Subaru home in 19th overall – despite an issue with the head gasket reducing their power early on.

And Pete Gorst and Phil King won the 1400cc class with their Nova – winning three of the five stages to secure the victory with over a minute in hand.

Elsewhere last weekend, Penrith-born Frank Bird was back behind the wheel of a rally car and claimed a dominant victory at the Knockhill Stages Rally.

With wet conditions at the Fife-based circuit, the 20-year-old delivered a flawless performance alongside Hexham co-driver Jack Morton – securing the win with a minute in hand.

Fastest by eight seconds on the opening speed test, Bird was able to double his advantage through the second.

Dropping three seconds on the third test, that would be the only time he was bettered all day – going on to win seven of the event’s eight stages.

Building his lead into the afternoon, he could not be beaten and secured the victory by 75 seconds.

“I’m really happy to get the win today in what were some fairly horrendous conditions,” said the youngster.

“It wasn’t the smoothest of days – we had a couple of issues and I made a few mistakes – but overall I’m really happy with how I drove.

“Thanks to Jack who was mega on the notes, and to all the Buckley boys who prepared a great car and stood out in the awful weather all day!”

The result means the Penrith lad is back in contention for the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship title with the next round taking place at Brands Hatch in the New Year.

In the meantime, Bird will also be in action at next weekend’s Christmas Stages.