JOHN Stone is the new leader of the National Tarmac Championship after his best performance of the year.

The Blackburn businessman finished seventh overall on last weekend’s Manx Telecom Rally at the wheel of his recently-acquired Skoda Fabia WRC.

And Stone, who only made his debut in the ex-Harri Rovanpera machine in February, was delighted with the result.

“It was a brilliant event, and the fastest route I’ve ever done,” said Stone, who is managing director of Legend Fires at Whitebirk.

“I made a real mess of two hairpins on the opening night, dropping one minute 35 seconds, but after that it settled down and I was very pleased with the times.

“I’m happy to be leading the championship at this stage, and we’re going to do our best to keep the lead on the next round.

“Thanks to Martin Wilkinson, Alan Causey, Rob and Big Johnny at CA1 Sport for preparing the car, it never missed a beat all weekend and we didn’t half give it some grief!”

Stone and co-driver Lee Carter also collected the ‘Star Performance’ salver for the efforts on the event, which comprised 120 miles of stages on the closed public road on the Isle of Man.

Three other East Lancashire crews were also in action on the rally, with Withnell-based John and Paula Swinscoe bringing their Mitsubishi Evo home in 23rd place.

Former Tour of Mull winner Daniel Harper lasted until stage five in his Mini Sport of Padiham BMW Cooper S, before oil pressure problems forced him out.

Dan Boardman and Gina Shelley put in a strong performance, hauling their Citroen Saxo up from a start position of 64 up to 31st overall before the throttle cable snapped.

Overall victory went to Cumbrian Paul Bird in his Ford Focus WRC, and the next round of the National Tarmac Championship is the Jim Clark Rally, based in the Scottish Borders, on May 28 and 29.

Result: 1, Paul Bird/Kirsty Riddick (Ford Focus WRC) 1:38:16; 2, Steven Quine/Richard Skinner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI) 1:41:36; 3, Damian Cole/Craig Drew (Ford Focus WRC) 1:42:17.7; 7, John Stone/Lee Carter (Skoda Fabia WRC) 1:43:23.8.

Championship positions: 1, John Stone (Skoda Fabia WRC) 40 points; 2, Mark Jasper (Hyundai Accent WRC) 37pts; 3, Chris Marshall (Mitsubishi Lancer) 33pts.