HAVING won the event for a third time last year to add to his 2007 and 2008 successes, Pickhill driver Chris Wise heads an impressive entry list for Sunday’s Autogas 2000 Jack Frost Stages Rally supported by Cartersport, which takes place at Croft Circuit, near Darlington.

Up until he finished runnerup on the recent Christmas Stages Rally, that victory in the wintry conditions last January was the event sponsors’ last outing in his MG Metro 6R4 and he will be keen to add a fifth title on the Darlington and District Motor Club annual event. Whether or not regular co-driver Tracey Taylor-West is able to take part remains to be seen as she missed the Christmas Stages through a back injury allowing Mick Johnson to navigate, but either way, Wise is set to be the man to beat as he heads the field way in car one at 9.15am.

But with some wet and windy conditions forecast this weekendy, itâ’s not just the elements that Wise will have to contend with as the 80-car entry is oozing with quality right the way through.

Chasing Wise is another MG Metro 6R4 in the hands of fellow Yorkshiremen Peter Smith and co-driver Graham Wild.

In their very first outing in the car at Croft last month, the pair finished inside the top ten so will be hoping for another strong performance this weekend.

Lancastrian duo Tim Finch and Terry Martin should go well in their Subaru Impreza at car three, while the giantkilling 1600cc Peugeot 106 of Carlisle pairing of Barry and Michael Lindsay are favourites in Class Two as they start at number four. Stokesley brothers Ian and Stephen Woodhouse are seeded at number five in their very rapid 2.5 litre Ford Escort Mk2, while York driver Chris Myers makes a welcome return to Croft at number six in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.

Scotsmen Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth will be away at number seven in their Peugeot 206, one place ahead of Guisborough’s Dave Hornbrook and Richmond co-driver Caroline Howell in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6. Former national champion John Stone and codriver Lee Carter make their traditional appearance at the event in their Peugeot 206 in car number nine with the top ten completed by fellow Lancastrians Richard Slinger and Phil Boyle in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.

All eyes will be on the intense two-wheel drive battle featuring a number of local crews headed by Witton Gilbert’s Andy Fawcett in his 1400cc Vauxhall Nova. After retiring on the very first test on the Christmas Stages, the Durham driver is hot favourite for Class One honours.

Chasing Fawcett is top seed in Class Thre, the GTM Coupe of Ed Todd, also from Witton Gilbert, and his Durham codriver Andy Brown, but he’ll be under pressure from Eggleton’s Mark Thompson and Phil Kenny (Peugeot 206) and the LPG-powered Renault Clio of Mickleton driver Alistair Hutchinson and co-driver Steve Walmsley.

Whashton brothers Paul and Chris Alsop will be again in action in their Talbot Sunbeam and after their problems on the Christmas Stages, expect the Bedale pairing of Joe Cunningham and Dan Kennedy to go well in their very competitive Peugeot 106.

Bishop Auckland crew Andrew Grimstone and Rob Dawson will be looking forward to putting their Christmas Stages disappointment behind them in their Honda Civic, while the Northallerton AC pairing of George Scott and Ian Jackson hope to get past scrutineering this time after a technical problem prevented the driver competing three weeks ago. Jackson, from Hartburn, was ensconced as clerk of the course on the recent Christmas Stages so he’ll be happy to let someone else take over the organisation this weekend.

After a shakedown on the Christmas Stages, Brompton shopkeeper hopes to tame his M3-powered BMW Compact which he is sharing with Tanfield’s Richard Ross, while Stokesley’s Darren Wilcox and co-driver Tanya Little hope to improve on their good result on their comeback last time out in their Subaru Impreza.

Dave Johnstone, from Leeming, competed on the Christmas Stages as his first ever rally with Mal Taylor from North Cowton on the notes so they’ll be looking to continue their progress in their Peugeot 205 while a similar car is back in action, this one driven by Crakehall plumber Andrew Auld with son Daniel as co-driver.

Richmond’s Luke Searle (Rover Metro), Hutton Rudby driver Kevin Liddle (Citroen Saxo) and the similar car of Chop Gate brothers Mark and John Gaskin will be hoping for a strong performance, as will Staindrop’s Colin Butler (Toyota Yaris). Having co-driven for his father Rob on the Christmas Stages, Thirkleby’s Mike Herrington takes over the 2.1 litre Ford Escort with Alex Taylor on the maps.

Other local competitors to look out for include Darlington’s Craig Hesse (Subaru), Ian Horn from Great Ayton (Vauxhall Nova) and Ingleby Barwick rallycrosser Martin Peters (Citroen Saxo). Also in action will be Jon Trenholme from Thirkleby (Subaru Impreza), Stockton’s Chris Roe (Vauxhall Corsa), Alan Hick from Whitby (Peugeot 206) and Thirsk’s Andrew Chandler (Ford Escort).

Entries were still filtering in during the past week so even more competitors are expected to contest the event which will comprise eight stages totalling about 50 stage miles and comprising a qualifying round of the AS Performance North of England Tarmacadam Championship 2014, Fuchs Titan Race ANCC Stage Rally Championship 2014 and the SG Petch ANECCC Stage Rally Championship 2014.

The first car starts at 09.15 and D&DMC along with Croft Circuit are making plans to ensure the majority of spectators’ cars are parked on the limited hard standing within the venue so spectators are urged to arrive early. There is strictly no parking on any of the approach roads to the venue in West Lane or on the A167.

Admission is £10 per adult with children aged 15 and under admitted free; gates open at 8.30am to spectators.

There will be commentary, catering and toilets and further information is available at croftcircuit.co.uk or darlington-motor-club.org.uk.

THE first of the 2014 chat shows organised by the North Yorkshire Road Racing Supporters’ Club takes place with a star line up at the Golden Lion, Northallerton on Tuesday, January 28.

World Supersport champion Sam Lowes along with his twin brother Alex who won last year’s British Superbike Championship will be joined on stage by World Superbike ace Leon Haslam in the show which starts at 8pm.

Further details are available at nyrrsc.net