SCRUTON’S Kevin Procter took his fifth victory in six years on Northallerton AC’s popular Christmas Stages Rally last Saturday but it was anything but plain sailing for the versatile Subaru WRC driver as his battered car testified at the end of eight actionpacked stages at Croft Circuit.
Along with Northallerton codriver Dave Bellerby, unlike last year’s easy victory, the pair were made to fight all the way as one of the strongest entries in years in dry and mild conditions made for some interesting action. However, Procter eventually saw off the opposition to take victory by 51 seconds at the end of the 50 stage miles around the North Yorkshire racetrack.
With all car parks full by mid morning, the thousands of fans saw Procter edge out the MG Metro 6R4 of Pickhill’s Chris Wise and Mike Johnson by seven seconds on SS1 before a combination of Procter clouting a post and then clashing with Teessider Peter Stephenson, combined with Wise speeding up, saw last year’s runner up hit the front after SS2.
Procter responded by setting fastest time on SS3 to lead by 19 seconds at the half way point with Cumbrian driver Peter Taylor, co-driven by Stanley’s Jack Morton courtesy of fastest time on SS4 elevating their Ford Focus WRC into second ahead of Wise a further six seconds back.
Fourth was the Proton Millington of Ben Mellors/Alex Lee seven seconds adrift and followed by Scotch Corner’s Tony Bardy and Richmond co-driver Reg Smith (Nissan) and the Subaru of Stephenson and his Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress.
A passing shower made it even more interesting just before SS5 and first to find the damp patch on a high speed run into a chicane was top seed Procter who slammed his Procter’s Coaches-backed car into it backwards, sustaining substantial damage and dropping 20 seconds in the process as Wise set his second fastest time of the day. Sadly, Taylor’s bid for honours ended when he struck throttle problems and was forced out on the same stage.
With his lead halved, Procter, who won the recent British Rallycross GP at Croft, set about increasing his advantage and courtesy of two storming drives on SS6 and SS7, had his lead up to 32 seconds going into the final stage in darkness. Not content with a steady run, he again set fastest time on SS8 as his rivals had no answer and with the crowds long gone, it was the Yorkshireman’s victory once again.
Wise, on his first drive in 11 months, claimed second place yet again with Mellors beating Stephenson for the final podium spot in a repeat of last year’s top three. Fifth went the way of the Ford Escort of Ian and Stephen Woodhouse from Hutton Rudby as best 2WD runners with former winner Bardy in sixth.
Catterick’s Martyn Tinker and co-driver Jacqueline Jones made the most of the dry conditions to claim seventh overall taking a class win in their Lotus Exige in the process with former runnersup, Paul Swift and David Cox from Darlington one place further back in their Ford Escort Mk2.
Brompton on Swale driver Geoff Wright claimed 13th overall and second in class in the Nissan Almera he was sharing with Stewart Dockray whilst the Northallerton pairing of Graeme Bell and Russ Radford overcame a collision with Paul Swift on the opening stage to finish 15th overall and fourth in class in their Ford Escort Mk2.
Whashton brothers Paul and Chris Alsop brought their Chrysler Sunbeam home in 17th overall and third in class, six seconds and one place ahead of Witton Gilbert’s Ed Todd and co driver Andy Brown in their GTM Coupe.
Richmond brothers Mark and Andrew Constantine took the class win en route to 19th overall in their 1400cc Vauxhall Corsa with Sunderland’s Jon Olds rounding out the top 20 in his Nissan Pulsar.
Middlesbrough crew Craig Hesse and Sam Spencer claimed 24th overall and 12th in class in their Subaru with Ingleby Barwick’s Martin Peters and Stokesley co driver Jason Leaf ending up 29th overall and fourth in class in their Citroen Saxo. Whitby’s Neil Marshall and Guisborough co-driver Mike Scrimgour were a further place back in their Peugeot 205 and Stokesley driver Darren Wilcox and co driver Terry Martin overcame a low seeding to finish 34th overall and 16th in class in their Subaru.
Northallerton’s Larry Carter and Linda Ashman claimed 35th overall and sixth in class in their Peugeot 206 while Great Ayton driver Ian Horn and co driver Bob Brown brought their Vauxhall Nova home in 39th overall and seventh in class. Bishop Auckland’s Mike Williams and co driver Kev Wilson finished 41st overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer, just ahead of Thirkleby dad and son team, Rob and Mike Herrington in their Ford Escort.
Driveshaft problems on two stages cost Bedale’s Joe Cunningham and Glen Coates the chance of a good result and they ended up in 43rd overall and ninth in class in their Peugeot 106 and Brompton driver Darren Grimston along with co driver Richard Ross made it to the finish in 46th overall and 6th in class on their debut in the BMW Compact M3.
Bedale’s Ben Farrow and Ben Searle claimed 47th overall and 11th in class in their Peugeot 205, five places ahead of the Heighington father and daughter pairing of Kev and Ashleigh Tennick in their Peugeot 205. Thirsk duo Andrew and Richard Chandler brought their Ford Escort home in 54th overall and fourth in class with Teessiders Michael Thornton and Nick Coleman finishing 55th and 15th in class in their Ford Escort.
Kevin Liddle from Hutton Rudby and co-driver Paul Rowland overcame an oil leak to finish 56th overall and 16th in class in their Citroen Saxo, one place ahead of another father and daughter team, this time Bill and Katie Bates from Sinderby in their Peugeot 106.Staindrop driver Colin Butler and Barnard Castle co driver Giles Dykes finished 62nd overall and sixth in class in their Toyota Yaris while last of the 66 finishers was the Consett pairing of Jimmy and Alistair Knox in their Peugeot 106.
Sadly, there were a number of local retirements including Witton Gilbert youngster Andrew Fawcett and Durham co driver Chris Purvis who went out after the opening stage with driveshaft problems in their Vauxhall Nova. The same stage claimed Thirkleby husband and wife Jon and Alison Trenholme in their Subaru whilst Chop Gate brothers, Mark and John Gaskin suffered gearbox failure on their Citroen Saxo on SS2.
Bishop Auckland driver Andrew Grimstone and co driver Rob Dawson retired their Honda Civic after the sixth stage while Guisborough’s Dave Hornbrook and Richmond co-driver Caroline Howell went out in their Mitsubishi on the very last stage with differential failure.