NELSON’S former SD34 Rally Championship winner Paul Blanchard will make his return to the sport at this weekend’s Clitheronian Rally.
Blanchard’s rallying career spans back almost 30 years and he impressively won both the driver’s section and the co-driver’s section in the SD34 Championship in 2008.
But the 49-year-old has not been behind the wheel for a rally since 2009 and will return from a 12-month break from co-driving when he navigates for fellow Clitheroe and District Motor Club member Danny Irodenko, 22, who is making his driving debut.
They will be among nearly 30 entries for the night-time East Lancashire road rally, which Blanchard played his part in reviving in 2006.
The long-running rally had been discontinued in 2002 but Blanchard brought it back as a 12-car navigational event.
It then became a full scale road rally again, although this will be the first time he has competed – having been an official in previous years.
“Danny is competing in his first event and he asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes,” Blanchard said.
“I have sat in the co-driver’s seat many times but this will be the first time I have been a navigator.
“I have done the Mull Rally, which is also at night, but you have pacenotes for that so it’s easier.
“With this you have to plot your route as it goes on.
“I don’t think we’re going to win, there’s almost a 30-car field I think so hopefully it will be competitive, which is great. But it will be a challenge and a good experience.”
Blanchard and Irodenko, who will be competing in a Peugeot 205 GTI, could also be set to team up in the SD34 Championship next year.
“I have won a section in the SD34 Championship in every year from 2005 to 2011,” he said.
“Unfortunately I went off at Weeton a while ago and I can’t afford to repair my car, and it’s 12 months since I did the Mull Rally as a co-driver too. As soon as I can find the money to repair my car it will be away we go again. But the next best thing is to be in the co-driver’s seat.”
Among the other entrants at the Clitheronian Rally will be Rishton’s Steve Entwistle in his Orangebox Mini and Accrington’s Simon Boardman in a Mitsubishi.