NORTH Yorkshire rally driver Joe Cunningham made the long trip north to Knockhill in Scotland to contest the second annual McRae Rally Challenge and came away with a superb third-place finish.

Along with Scruton co-driver Josh Beer, Cunningham, from Leeming Bar, was behind the wheel of the Procter’s Coaches-sponsored Ford Fiesta S2000 in a field of truly World class competitors which not only included some of the best current drivers in the UK, but some legends of yesteryear.

The invitational event saw around 80 competitors do battle over the two-day event using the racetrack as well as the various access roads around the Fife venue and the technical rally experience tracks on the steep hillside. Competitors included the likes of Scottish champions Garry Pearson and Gordon Morrison along with former stars of both the British and World Rally Championships such as Alister McRae (Hyundai Accent WRC), the Ford Escort Mk2s of Jimmy McRae and Gwyndaf Evans plus Jonny Milner, who was reunited with a Toyota Corolla WRC.

World Rallycross star Andy Scott was also in action in his Hyundai i20 and even multiple Olympic cycling champion, Sir Chris Hoy, was making his rally debut in a Mitsubishi Evo 9. Sadly, former World champion Stig Blomqvist, who was scheduled to compete in a Vauxhall Firenza, was unable to travel due to flight cancellations from his home in Sweden.

Cunningham was in contention from the start and after five stages on Saturday, held third place at the overnight halt despite a difficult day in changeable weather conditions. Sunday dawned dryer and brighter and Joe maintained his great pace to maintain third behind Pearson’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 and Scott as they went into the final stage. With one final push, Cunningham set second fastest time on the final stage, just one second behind the latest prodigy of the McRae family, teenage star Max McRae, but while Pearson took the victory, Scott held on to pip Joe by just three seconds at the end of the ten stages.

1 Garry Pearson/Ross Kirk (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) 45 mins 23 secs

2 Andy Scott/Laura Connell (Hyundai I20 R5) 45:48

3 Joe Cunningham/Josh Beer (Ford Fiesta 2000) 45:51

4 Finlay Retson/Rhys Stoneman (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) 45:58

5 Gordon Morrison/Hannah McKillop (Ford Fiesta R5) 46:17

6 Ian Forgan/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) 46:18

7 Max McRae/Macartan Kierans (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) 46:19

8 Jonny Milner/Duncan McMath (Toyota Corolla WRC) 46:59

9 John Marshall/Craig Wallace (Ford Fiesta) 47:17

10 John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) 47:32