FOR a second successive year, County Durham rally driver Stephen Petch emerged victorious from his local event when he retained his SG Petch-supported Tour of Hamsterley title despite the murky conditions last Saturday Driving the SGP Motorsport Ford Focus WRC he was sharing with Crook co-driver Michael Wilkinson, the pair emerged at the National Railway Museum, at Shildon, finishing more than one-and-ahalf minutes ahead of Teesside’s Peter Stephenson and his co-driver Ian Windress, from Northallerton, in their Able UK backed Ford Focus WRC.

Petch, who lives in the village of Hamsterley, was never headed and held a 57 second advantage after the opening three stages in the tricky forest complex, Stages four and five at Raby Castle were cancelled for the modern cars but it mattered not as on the final loop back in the woods, Petch rammed home his advantage to retain the silverware on the event supported by his family’s local motor dealerships.

There was plenty of other local success on the Stockton and District Motor Club organised event which included both modern and historic cars in the 100 strong entry list. Former National champions Steve Petch from Scorton and Exelby co driver John Richardson had a rare outing to claim a brilliant fourth overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer, two places ahead of Durham crew Tony Arnsby and Chris Purvis in their similar car.

Barnard Castle pairing John Bainbridge and Giles Dykes had a good run on their local event to bring their Subaru Impreza home in seventh overall, claiming a class win in the process. Best of the local two wheel drive brigade in the modern class was Northallerton’s John Tillett, who along with c driver Sam Spencer, claimed 12th overall and third in class in their BMF-sponsored Ford Escort Mk2.

Fourteenth overall and fourth in class went to Boroughbridge driver Graham Haigh who had Ainderby Quernhow’s Kari Bates on the notes as they finished fourth in class in their Ford Escort. Dan Thompson from Ingleton and Guisborough’s Mike Scrimgour finished one place further back but took a class win in their Peugeot 205 whilst Redcar’s Chris Roe along with co driver Bob McKenzie from Saltburn ended up 17th overall and second in class in their 1400cc Nova. John Dewar- Young from Stanhope was thrilled to finish the event in his Ford Puma in 23rd overall as this was his first event as a driver with all previous experience in the passenger seat.

In the Historic class which comprised a round of the WWRS RAC Rally Championship, best of the locals was Tim Pearcey from Thirsk who along with co driver Alan Walker took sixth overall in their Willowgreen Homessponsored Ford Escort Mk2.

Potto driver Keith Davison and co driver Henry Richardson from Ripon claimed 37th overall and third in class in their Chrysler Avenger with Durham’s John Nicholson and Peter Littlefield surviving an encounter with a ditch to end up 41st overall and fifth in class.

Harrogate driver Duncan Pearcey and co-driver Fred Roberts, from Easingwold, claimed 41st overall and first in class in their Datsun 240Z but for five crews, the day ended in disappointment.

Ripon’s Matt Robinson and co-driver Sam Collis were leading the Historic class in their RPS Ford Escort Mk2 when they retired on the penultimate stage, while the BMW of Thirlby driver Terry Cree and Boltby co-driver Richard Shores expired on SS5 with engine problems.

Alex Lund, from Ripon, and Bedale co-driver Nick Kitching retired their Ford Escort Mk1 on SS3, as did Faceby’s Alun Pearson and co-driver Simon Brook in their Peugeot 205.

Durham driver Gavin Spencer and co-driver Josh Davison from Stanley also went out after hitting tree in their Vauxhall Nova. With various charitable donations from crews, sponsors and spectators, the organisers estimate about £1,000 has been raised for Butterwick Hospice.

THE 2014 Roger Albert Clark Rally on November 28 to 30 will have a new look as the event starts a new era with Sunderland as the host city.

With the rally start, finish and HQ all based in Sunderland, the route will make extensive use of the Kielder Forest complex and will take in several stages that are completely new to the event in a total competitive route of up to 190 stage miles.

The move north to Sunderland is being supported by Sunderland Live, the events arm of Sunderland City Council, and has allowed rally manager Colin Heppenstall to give the rally a fresh look.

The event will be based around the Seaburn Leisure Centre and will provide the venue for rally HQ, scrutineering, documentation and prizegiving.

The meeting will also offer an impressive spectator stage at the Herrington Country Park.