AFTER a number of near misses which has seen their efforts fall just short in recent years, Hamsterley rally driver Stephen Petch and co-driver Michael Wilkinson from Crook finally got their hands on the Ravenol BTRDA Gold Star Rally title following last weekend’s Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally based in Ludlow.

Driving the SGP Motorsport Ford Fiesta WRC backed by WD-40, the pair had been embroiled in a season long battle with Midland rival Callum Black, whose father Steve was originally from Northallerton, and Tyneside co-driver Elliott Edmondson. Knowing the complexities of the scoring system, Petch knew all he had to do was shadow his main rival throughout the day, which is exactly what he did to come home in third place just behind Black, to clinch the title with one round to go.

The celebrations marked the 25th anniversary of another Petch winning his first National Rally title when dad Steve, along with co-driver Peter Croft, clinched the BTRDA title for the first time. This time, however, Steve, from Scorton and accompanied as always by Exelby co-driver John ‘JR’ Richardson, was in action in a Ford Fiesta S2000 and despite an incorrect tyre choice, brought the car home in a respectable 31st overall and 10th in class.

2016 BTRDA champion Charlie Payne from Ripon, along with Welsh co-driver Carl Williamson, didn’t contest a full season but proved as competitive as ever when they finished sixth overall in their Ford Fiesta, three places ahead of Teesside businessman Peter Stephenson and Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress in their Ford Focus WRC. Potto’s Andy Davison and co-driver Tom Murphy enjoyed a strong run in their Talbot Sunbeam to end up 34th and second in class.

Picture attached (please accredit James Ward/Chicane Media) – Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson clinched the BTRDA Rally Series last weekend.

MELBOURNE near York was the venue for last Sunday’s Vale of York Stages Rally and saw a healthy contingent of local competitors make the trip down the A19 with reasonable success.

Leading the way in seventh place overall was the Guisborough duo of Dave Hornbrook and co-driver Phil Hewson in their Mitsubishi Evo 4 whilst Northallerton’s Kevin Franks and co-driver Craig Walley brought their Fuchs-backed Ford Escort home in 15th overall and second in class.

Pickhill co-driver Mick Johnson guided George Hewick to 18th overall and fourth in class in their Ford Escort Mk2 whilst Bedale driver Shaun Wilson and co-driver Graham Willcock ended up 19th overall in their Subaru Impreza. Leeming ace Dave Johnstone along with Pickhill co-driver Bruce Lindsay finished 23rd overall and 2nd in class in their Peugeot 205 with Whitby pairing Kev Hullah and Chris Harding struggling to 47th overall and eighth in class in their VW Golf.

Sadly for Northallerton driver Darren Grimston and co-driver Richard Ross, originally from West Tanfield, they went out after the opening stage with engine failure on their Ford Escort Mk2.

THE Redcar SG Petch Bears Speedway Team continued their brilliant end of season form with another victory, this time at home to another high-flying team, the Ipswich Witches.

Having recently beaten the fourth and third placed teams in the Championship League, last Thursday night they entertained second in the table Witches and the meeting started off with brilliant win by Bears captain Ben Barker with team mate Ellis Perks in second ahead of Witches ex-British Champion Danny King in third place.

Bears German rider Tobias Busch, who was suffering from ‘flu, won the next heat to split the points which were again split in the next two heats with wins for Witches’ Kyle Newman and Rory Schlein. The Bears stepped up the pressure in the heat five with win for Jonas B Andersen with Barker in second and this score was repeated for the Bears in the next two heats, with another win for Barker before Busch’s second win to give the early advantage to the home team 29-13.

Witches’ Schlein wore the tactical helmet colour in the next heat where he got the gate and went on to win, scoring six points, however Bears riders were second and third, which reduced the impact. Schlein was out again in the next heat and promptly won from Wright and Andersen. Heat 10 and Barker secured his third win of the meeting which stretched the Bears lead to 15 points, with only five heats remaining for the Witches to make a comeback.

In heat 11, the points were again split with a fine win by Wright who held off a strong challenge from Newman. Andersen destroyed Witches chances of victory when he won the next heat with Bears guest rider Mitchell Davey third. Danny King scored his only win of the meeting in heat 13 but with Barker second and Wright third, the points were once again split. In the penultimate heat Davey got the gate and had a really good dice with Andersen but on the third lap, Andersen fell and was disqualified meaning the race was awarded to Davey.

With the meeting already won Barker rubbed salt into the Witches wounds by winning the last heat, to give him a personal score of 16 points and to make the final score 55-38 to the Bears. On Saturday Bears rode the return meeting at Ipswich and the result was an almost reverse score with a win for the Witches 51-39 and on Sunday, Bears had a surprise close defeat away to Newcastle Diamonds 46-44.