PICKHILL driver Chris Wise showed the opposition a clean pair of mud flaps when he romped to victory in treacherous conditions in the Autogas 2000 Jack Frost Stages Rally, in association with Cartersport, at Croft last Sunday.

In doing so, he took his third victory in the competition on the Darlington and District Motor Club race calendar.

It was all credit to the organising club that the event went ahead as arctic conditions in the week previous and a heavy snowfall on the Friday night meant a logistical nightmare which they were always confident of overcoming.

With hard-packed ice and a covering of snow greeting competitors on the morning, Wise and co-driver Tracey Taylor West were suitably attired with snow tyres on their ex John Price MG Metro 6R4 for the first time, resulting in the pair never being headed as they added to their victories of 2007 and 2008 and in doing so, denied pre-event favourites Paul Bird an unprecedented fifth successive win.

Bird, from Penrith, made a wrong tyre choice in his Ford Focus WRC and took a maximum on SS1 before retiring soon after when his Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick broke her finger in a freak accident in the service area, leaving Wise with little effective competition and by only the third stage, he had increased his lead to an impressive two and a half minutes.

Behind, a battle was developing as Simon Chapman and Michael Calvert (MG Metro 6R4) and Dave Hornbrook from Guisborough and Richmond co-driver Caroline Howell (Mitsubishi Lancer) scrapped it out.

But conditions were also favouring the two-wheel drive brigade, initially led by the spectacular Ford Escort Mk1 of Alex Lund and Nick Kitchen from Boroughbridge before Darlington duo Paul Swift and David Cox took over in pursuit in the Ford Escort Mk2 which was finished in the early hours just prior to the rally after a new Millington engine was installed following his Christmas Stages blow up.

As a slight thaw set in, Wise continued his progress and by SS6 had over four minutes in hand to preserve his lead which allowed the impressive Lancastrians Arron Newby and Gary Tomlinson (Subaru) to set fastest times on two of the three remaining stages.

At the finish, Wise’s winning margin was four minutes and 19 seconds from Chapman who was 33 seconds up on Hornbrook with Swift just 21 seconds further back in fourth.

Top 1600 runners Joe Cunningham, from Aiskew, and Leeming co-driver Dan Kennedy claimed fifth overall and class win in their Coach2.com Peugeot 106 after a superb display which put many more powerful cars to shame in the treacherous conditions.

Mickleton’s Alistair Hutchinson and co-driver St John Dykes, from Barnard Castle, brought their LPG-powered Renault Clio home in ninth overall, taking a class win and just edging out Lund and Kitchen who had to settle for tenth overall and second in class, although the decentsized crowd readily acknowledged that he was the most spectacular driver of the day!

Butterknowle’s Chris Anderson and Bishop Auckland codriver Chris Thirling treated the event cautiously because of the lack of experience in icy conditions but still claimed an 11th overall place and third in class in their Chris Birkbeckprepared Ford Fiesta.

Eppleby driver Mark Thompson and co-driver Phil Kenny were making a rare appearance in their two-litre Peugeot 206 and finished 12th overall and fourth in class, one place ahead of Ingleby Barwick rallycrosser Martin Peters and Hutton Rudby codriver Jason Leaf who claimed third in class in their 1600cc Citroen Saxo.

Darlington driver Craig Hesse and co-driver Sam Spencer brought their ex-John Gaskin Subaru Impreza home in 14th overall and third in class, just ahead of Northallerton’s Andrew Smith and codriver Sam Rowland who took the victory in Class 6 in their historic specification Ford Escort Mk2.

Bedale newcomers Ben Farrow and Ben Searle followed up a great performance on the Christmas Stages to bring their Peugeot 205 home to 16th overall and fourth in class with Thirkleby’s Rob Herrington and Ripon co-driver Charlotte Banner 17th overall and second in class in their Ford Escort Mk2.

Stockton driver Paul Dolan took advantage of a low number to bring the 1400cc Vauxhall Corsa he was sharing with Northallerton’s Brian Smith home in 18th overall, taking an class victory ahead of Hartlepool pairing of Stuart Leighton and Rachel Heel who claimed 20th overall in their Nissan Micra.

Northallerton’s Linda Ashman guided the Peugeot 206 of Larry Carter to 22nd overall and seventh in class, just edging out the Thirsk pairing of Andrew and Richard Chandler by just two seconds in their RWS Bodyworks-sponsored Ford Escort after nearly an hour and a half’s competition, but still claimed third in class.

Great Ayton driver Ian Horn and Guisborough co-driver Dave Scrimgour claimed 24th overall and eighth in class in their Vauxhall Nova with the Barnard Castle pairing of John and Jennifer Bainbridge salvaging 28th overall and ninth in class after a traumatic day in their Subaru.

County Durham duo Colin Butler and Joe Hutchinson did well to finish 29th overall and fourth in class in their 1000cc Toyota Yaris and once conditions improved and fitted with suitable tyres, the Brompton pair of Darren Grimston and Stuart Carter recovered to 30th overall and tenth in class in their hired Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8.

Durham’s Neil Ayre and Adam Bradford finished 31st overall and 11th in class in their Mitsubishi Evo 6, half a minute ahead of the lurid pink MG Maestro of Whitby’s Martin and Andrew Cockerill.

Whashton brothers Paul and Chris Alsop struggled with unsuitable tyres throughout the day on their Talbot Sunbeam and ended up in 36th overall and seventh in class, just ahead of fellow Richmondshire crew Luke and Terry Searle who finished fifth in class in their Rover Metro.

Darlington’s Ian Cartwright guided Mike Williams to 39th overall and 12th in class in their SGP Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer usually driven by Steve Petch and one place behind were the unfortunate John and Mark Gaskin from Chop Gate whose day didn’t get off to a good start when the had to return home for some paperwork for scrutineering but after a storming run into the top ten, they suffered a couple of mechanical problems to drop them down the order in their Citroen Saxo.

Birtley’s Jimmy and Karl Knox, the co-driver being just 16 years old, came home in 42nd overall and 12th in class in their Peugeot 106 with the Ripon crew of Gordon Watson and Mark Casey finishing 44th out of the 46 finishers in their Peugeot 205, out of just 54 starters.