THE curtain goes up on a new season of motorsport in East Lancashire when Pendle and district motor club host the Witch Way road rally this weekend.

Under the guidance of Neil and Stephen Bye, the Witch Way has firmly established itself in the calendar after only four years and is the only one in Britain to represent five major championships -- ANWCC, Northern, West Midlands, Cumbria and SD34.

The organisers are expecting a near-capacity entry with last year's winners Steve Whitford and Mark Porter back to defend their title in a Toyota Corolla GT, followed by former stage rally driver Stewart Newby and ANWCC champion Paul Holmberg in their potent Subaru Impreza WRX.

International co-driver Chris Wood, who contested the 2000 Jim Clark Memorial Rally with ex-British champion Martin Rowe, returns for the only road event he does all year.

Hoghton's Chris Astley, winner of Clitheroe DMC's Hall Trophy 2000, is expected in the starting line-up with former ANCC leading light Mick Monaghan on the maps.

Taking advantage of the long, dark nights of January, clerk-of-the-course Neil Bye has plotted a demanding 185-mile route through East Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.

Competitors will start from the Anchor Inn at Gargrave near Skipton at around 10pm on Saturday night, with the winners expected back in Gargrave at 5pm.

Spectator information, including entry list and viewing points, will be available at the start venue from 9pm onwards.

Anyone wishing to join Pendle DMC, six times winners of the SD34 Club Championship, can do so on the night or attend one of the club nights, held on the fourth Wednesday of every month at Earby Cricket Club, Cowgill Street, Earby.


1: Mark Whitford/Steve Porter (Toyota Corolla); 2: Carl Hawkins/Ian Tullie (Vauxhall Nova); 3: Stuart Newby/Paul Holmberg (Subaru Impreza); 4: Nick Broadway/Andy Oakes (Ford Escort); 5: John Lawson/Chris Pringle (TBA); 6: Nick Bloxham/Carl Williamson (Peugeot 205GTi).

Local entries: 17: Chris Astley/Mike Monaghan (Ford Ecsort); 20: Terry Martin/Simon Bentley (Peugeot 205GTi); 24: Ashley Hodge/Charles Reade-Jahn (Peugeot 205GTi); 29: Daniel Barritt/David Barritt (Mini); 32: Chris Day/Richard Chalmers (Nissan Pulsar); 38: Andy Proctor/Jason Crook (Vauxhall Astra); 40: Tim Foster/Heidi Winstanley (Vauxhall Astra); 43: Simon Daly/Russ Moore (Ford Fiesta).