THE curtain goes up on another season of motorsport in Lancashire with this weekend’s Legend Fires North West Stages.

The Blackpool-based event is recognised as the best opportunity for rally crews in the region to sample a true sealed-surface event.

Competitors will tackle 22 stages at five separate venues in the Fylde coast, giving a total of approx-imately 80 stage miles with a compact road route.

Leading the field away is 2009 winner Tony Bardy, whose Nissan Sunny GTi-R has undergone an engine rebuild specially for the event But Bardy will have his work cut out to stay ahead of top rallycross drivers Kevin Proctor and Dave Bellerby, who co-drives on this occasion, in an ex-works Subaru Impreza WRC formerly driven by the only Englishman to be crowned World Champion, the late Richard Burns.

Last year’s runners-up Graham Coffey and Simon Hunter are seeded at car three in their ex-Petter Solberg Subaru Impreza WRC.

But all eyes will be on John Stone’s new Skoda Fabia WRC.

The Blackburn businessman, managing director of sponsors Legend Fires, is seeded at car four with regular mapman Lee Carter alongside.

The opening stage of the rally gets underway just after 6.30pm tomorrow on Blackpool’s North Promenade with some excellent viewing vantage points opposite the Norbreck Castle Hotel.

Saturday’s action gets underway on Fleetwood’s Lower Promenade at 9.20am. Competitors return to the Wyre venue at 11.40am having paid their first visit of the day to Blackpool, where the action is scheduled to commence at around 10.15am. This pair of Blackpool Promenade stages promise to be among the toughest of the rally, starting again at Anchorsholme but this time finishing close to Gynn Square.

Rossendale’s John Deegan will be among the favourites for Class C (up to 2000cc non-turbo cars) honours in his familiar Honda Civic Type-R, but he’s likely to be chased all the way by a much older car.

Ribchester’s Russell Morgan and his co-driver Martin Kenyon from Clitheroe are being forced to run their Ford Escort Mk1 RS2000 in the same class owing to a lack of other historic entries.

As a result it promises to be an interesting battle between old and modern machinery.

Withnell husband-and-wife pairing John and Paula Swinscoe, who are members of Clitheroe & District Motor Club, just missed out on a top 10 finish on last year’s Tour of Mull, ending the event eleventh overall.

They’ll be hoping to go at least one place higher in Blackpool in their self-built Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 that they affectionately refer to as ‘The Yellow Peril’.

Former WRC driver Neil Wearden, from Preesall, will be undertaking course car duties again in his Ford Escort Mk2 knows the area well.

Wearden's stunning car has undergone further development since last year’s Pendragon Stages, where he finished runner-up to William Stobart’s M-Sport Focus WRC.