Irishman McCormack celebrates RAC victory

Darlington and Stockton Times: PRESSURE ON: Mechanics work on Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks’ Ford Escort RS1800 during the Roger Albert Clark Rally at Croft Circuit last weekend PRESSURE ON: Mechanics work on Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks’ Ford Escort RS1800 during the Roger Albert Clark Rally at Croft Circuit last weekend

THE ninth running of De Lacy Motor Club’s Roger Albert Clark Rally – most of which took place in the region last weekend – proved to be another classic with the outcome not determined until the very last stage on Sunday afternoon when Ulsterman Marty McCormack pipped Yorkshire rallying legend Steve Bannister to the victory.

With a record entry including some famous names from the past as well as former world champion Gregoire de Mevius, the three-day event also featured many local crews in historic period cars of the 1960s to the 1980s in the event that recreates the legendary Lombard RAC Rally of yesteryear.

Starting in Pickering on Friday evening, followed by four night-time stages in Dalby which saw thousands of spectators out watching the action, the event looped round Gale Rigg and Duncombe Park on Saturday morning before heading to Croft for two fogshrouded stages in the afternoon which again attracted a massive crowd.

From there, it was on to Hamsterley, near Bishop Auckland, in darkness before two stages in the southern fringe of Kielder Forest, in Pundershaw, took crews to Carlisle for the overnight halt.

Sunday saw a tough day in the Kielder forests of north west England and southern Scotland before the finish in Brampton late on Sunday.

Bannister, from Malton, and Scottish co-driver Kevin Rae suffered a puncture on the very first stage but soon hit the front where they built a healthy lead through the familiar stages in their Ford Escort Mk2.

However, as the event progressed, young Irishman McCormack, and co-driver Phil Clarke in a similar car gradually eroded the lead of Bannister and the two crews were virtually inseparable as they headed into the final test in Kershope as darkness descended.

A storming drive by McCormack on the final stage saw him stop the clocks 17 seconds faster than his Yorkshire rival, meaning he took his first victory in the event and denied Bannister his second – all of this after nearly three hours of competition.

Of the other local crews, it was Northallerton garage proprietor Charlie Taylor and Pickering co-driver Steve Bielby who emerged best in eighth place to add to his impressive record on the event. The CTMS-sponsored Ford Escort crew claimed second place in Class D5 as well as being a winning member of the team award for good measure.

The York pairing of Ian Hildreth and Stephen Stead brought their Motoscope-prepared Ford Escort home in 27th overall and fourth in class with the Ripon crew of Stewart Scott and Mark Casey claiming 34th overall and second in class in their Ford Escort RS2000. Kari Bosworth, from Ainderby Quernhow, guided Bernard Nolan to 36th overall and third in class in their Ford Escort Mexico Mk1.

Darlington and Stockton Times: READY TO GO: Drivers at Croft Circuit wait to move on to the next stage

As normal, attrition played a major part over the 150 stage miles and for five local crews, they failed to finish. York duo Ashley Slights and Matt Whattam retired after Duncombe Park on SS7 with a broken rocker in their Ford Escort Mk1 on Saturday morning.

Ripon driver Matthew Robinson and Bedale co-driver Mick Gilby were holding an impressive third place overall in their RRS-sponsored Ford Escort succumbed to gearbox problems early on Sunday morning on SS17, with the same stage accounting for Boroughbridge driver Tom Hewick and co-driver Mick Johnson, from Pickhill, in their Ford Escort.

It was a similar story for Thirsk’s Tim Pearcey and Scottish co-driver Neil Shanks who went out on Sunday’s very first stage on SS16 with a broken stub axle on their Willowgreen Homes-backed Ford Escort Mk2. Perhaps the most unlucky, however, was the Vauxhall Chevette of Pickering pair Steve Magson and Geoff Atkinson who rolled out on the very last stage within sight of the finish.

In the supporting De Lacy Night Rally on Friday, Thirsk driver Mat Smith and co-driver Giles Dykes, from Barnard Castle, romped to a convincing victory by over two-and-a-half minutes in their 1400cc Ford Ka with the Hambleton pairing of Amanda and Derek Cornforth finishing third in their similar car after the four testing stages in darkness.

THE annual Coppermines Grizedale Stages Rally gets underway in the Lake District village of Coniston tomorrow morning with the Darlingtonbased SGP Motorsport team looking for success on the event.

Hamsterley’s Stephen Petch and co-driver Ian Windress, from Northallerton, are looking for a debut victory in the event and stand a great chance in their Hyundai Accent WRC as he looks to emulate his father Steve’s victories in 2002 and 2003.

However, Steve, from Scorton and Exelby co-driver John Richardson will be gunning for glory once again in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 as they look to take on the more powerful machinery.

But the man they will have to beat is defending champion Michael Wilkinson, from Tow Law, who last year guided Lancastrian driver David Wright to victory and the Evo 9 pairing will prove formidable opposition in a field which includes international drivers Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) and Tom Cave (Subaru Impreza).

For more information, visit grizedalestages.co.uk

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