HAVING finished third at the 2013 event, Teesside businessman Peter Stephenson managed to finally get his hands on the winner’s trophy when he took the victory in last Sunday’s Riponian Rally.

Along with Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress in the Able UK-sponsored Ford Focus WRC, the pair came home just over half a minute ahead of double BTRDA champion Matthew Robinson from Ripon and co-driver Sam Collis in their historic specification Ford Escort Mk2, with Thirsk’s Mat Smith, accompanied by brother Darren, achieving his latest giantkilling act with a third place overall in the 1400cc Ford Ka.

With torrential rain on the run-up to Ripon Motor Sport Club’s annual event leaving the stages around Helmsley very muddy, and despite failing to attract the numbers of previous years, 52 crews left Thirsk Rural Business Centre on Sunday morning knowing a new name would to be added to the trophy.

SS1 was held in Boltby Forest and setting an incredible fastest time was the 1600cc Peugeot 205 of Ben Cree and Richard Shores. The fact that Cree lives just up the road at Thirlby and Shores even closer, in Boltby village, meant they knew the topography very well but it was still an amazing achievement.

Late entry Ben Mellors (Proton) took the lead in Roppa and extended it in Riccal Dale and after tricky tests in Waterloo and Wass; he arrived back at service with a slim 12 second lead over Ian Joel’s Ford Escort Cosworth. Stephenson was ten seconds further adrift with Robinson, Smith and the Thirsk pairing of Tom Hewick and Mick Johnson completing the top six, the latter despite a one minute road penalty.

The same loop of five stages awaited the crews in the afternoon and straight away the drama began. Mellors slid off the road in Boltby and into retirement handing the lead to Lancastrian Joel who maintained it through Roppa before dropping time on Riccal Dale.

That allowed Stephenson to hit the front from where he was never headed and despite Robinson setting fastest time through Waterloo, Stephenson had it all under control having set the quickest time on the final stage in Wass.

Robinson had a clean run to second place which saw him easily win the Historic class with Smith taking a class win also in third overall. The fact that he set second fastest time on the penultimate Waterloo stage ahead of a string of four wheel drive cars spoke volumes of his performance.

Tom Hewick claimed fourth, two places ahead of Ripon pairing Alex Lund and Nick Kitchen (Ford Escort Mk1) who made amends after crashing out last year. Ben Cree cemented his great performance on SS1 with a class win in 12th overall whilst Ripon siblings Gary and Kirsty Beckwith finished 17th overall and fourth in class in their Ford Escort Mk2 as they took the best mixed crew award.

Northallerton driver John Tillett and Thirsk co-driver Guy Kirby brought their Ford Escort Mk2 home in 20th overall and sixth in class, one place ahead of Ripon’s Andrew Robinson and Kevin Wilson in their historic spec Ford Escort.

Brompton’s Darren Grimston overcame a misfire and a collision at a bank to claim 26th overall and second in class in the Ford Escort Mexico he was sharing with Richard Ross.

Chris Roe, from Redcar, and Saltburn co-driver Bob McKenzie took 29th overall and second in class in their Vauxhall Nova with Teessiders Michael Thornton and Dave Scrimgour rounding out the top 30 in their Ford Escort.

The Whitby crew of Kevin Hullah and Chris Harding (VW) just edged out Thirsk pair Amanda and Derek Cornforth after they had been stuck in a ditch on SS1 in their Ford Ka but for three other local crews, they failed to see the finish.

Guisborough co-driver Mike Scrimgour went out with Dan Thompson on the very last stage in their Peugeot 205 while Northallerton’s Simon Cole retired his BMW early on in the second loop. Boroughbridge driver Miles Johnston rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer in Wass in the first loop, while Thirsk’s Graham Haigh and Kari Bates went out in their Ford Escort on the first stage with transmission problems.

THE fancied front runners from the region were all out of luck as once again, the Blackpool-based Legend Fires North West Stages Rally proved very much to be one of attrition last weekend.

Former winners Kevin Procter, from Leeming, and Northallerton co-driver Dave Bellerby were hoping to improve on their runner-up placing of last year but got no further than SS2 when their Procters Luxury Coachesbacked Subaru WRC blew a turbo and they were out.

Another former winner in the shape of Scotch Corner driver Tony Bardy, accompanied by Saltburn’s Neil Colman, were going well in the difficult conditions when their Nissan Sunny clouted a chicane which resulted in substantial damage leading to retirement.

Darlington’s Paul Swift saw his hopes dashed for a second successive year when mechanical failure saw him retire. Along with Barnard Castle co-driver Giles Dykes, Swift was hoping to banish the demons from last year when he retired early on in the 2.4 litre Millington Ford Escort Mk2. A spin on the second stage meant he slumped to 48th overall at the overnight halt but he bounced back on Saturday to set top ten times on the opening loop of stages. By halfway, he was up to tenth place overall and all looked to be going well until SS16 when the car suffered clutch problems which proved to be terminal, meaning he had to not only relinquish his overall position, his hopes of a class win were gone too.

Also joining them on the sidelines when all were well placed were three other local crews. Witton Gilbert’s Andy Fawcett along with Ryton co driver Chris Purvis were holding an amazing sixth place overall at the overnight halt when Andy was taken ill during the night which meant he could not take to the restart in their 1400cc Vauxhall Nova.

Alistair Hutchinson, from Eggleston, suffered driveshaft failures before taking a wheel off on SS16 in Weeton which led to him retiring his Renault Clio which he was sharing with Barnard Castle’s St John Dykes and following a great top ten result on the recent Jack Frost Stages, Staindrop’s Mark Thompson broke the gearbox mounting on his Peugeot 206 at half distance.

It was better news for Thirkleby husband-and-wife team Jon and Alison Trenholme who ended their run of bad luck with a superb 14th overall and eighth in class in their Subaru Impreza, while Richmond’s Mark and Andrew Constantine finally got rid of their jinx on the event to bring their Vauxhall Corsa home to 16th overall and a class win.

Darlington driver Kev Tennick along with Stockton’s Ian Jackson brought their Peugeot 205 home in 28th overall and seventh in class, while Bill and Kari Bates from Sinderby took a fine 34th overall and seventh in class in their Peugeot 106.