Frank Bird won the M-Sport Return to Rally Stages by 24 seconds ahead of Hugh Hunter, after the Cumbrian team decided to withdraw its three drivers “in fairness to the competition” after the end of the final stage.
Bird, driving a Ford Focus WRC ’07, took the win in the first rally in the UK following the COVID-19 crisis, after the team’s three entered drivers – Matthew Wilson in a current-spec Fiesta WRC and WRC2 regulars Rhys Yates and Adrien Fourmaux – all chose to retire from what were the top three positions.
Third after the six stages was Sam Moffett in the first Mk2 version of the R5 Fiesta on the leaderboard. He finished just two seconds adrift of Hunter, with fourth place Cathan McCourt just one second further behind.
The event was designed to show stakeholders of the sport how rallying can safely get back underway following the COVID-19 crisis, as well as being used by M-Sport to celebrate the wide range of cars that have been built by the team over the last 20 years.
A total of 43 entrants competed on the Greystoke-based rally, with the fastest Rally4/R2 entrant being Junior British Rally Championship driver Finlay Retson, 32 seconds quicker than Elliot Payne in a similar spec Fiesta R2-T.
Both Fiesta’s and Focus’ from throughout the last 20 years took part, with everything from early-2000s Fiesta ST machines all the way to Wilson in the current-spec Fiesta WRC all competing.
Another noticeable name on the entry list was M-Sport’s World Rally Team Principal Richard Millener, who finished a respectable 34th overall in an older-spec R2 Fiesta.
For the one-off event, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson was on zero car duties aboard his MK2 Ford Escort, although rolled the car on stage four.
A full video review of the Return to Rally Stages will be released on Thursday evening on the M-Sport Social Media channels.