Local ace Kevin Procter took his seventh victory in eight years on Northallerton AC’S popular festive fixture as he and co-driver Dave Bellerby eased to another comfortable win at Croft Circuit.
Despite the local flooding chaos and torrential rain the day before, the day dawned dry, bright and mild, ensuring a crowd of thousands at the Yorkshire racetrack. With slick tyres the order of the day, the Subaru WRC pairing of Procter/bellerby was immediately on the case on SS1 to lead Tony Bardy/neil Colman (Ford Focus WRC) by two seconds, with Ryan and Jemma Champion’s ex-works Group A-spec Subaru a further six seconds back in third.
Procter increased his lead on SS2 to 21 seconds over Champion as Bardy slipped to third, but it was the Proton Millington of Barry Renwick/steve Dargan that was quickly finding its pace and, by SS3, the duo had taken over in second place.
By halfway, Procter’s lead was up to 36 seconds over Renwick, with Bardy 12s further adrift in third. Ian and Stephen Woodhouse held fourth, just three seconds ahead of fellow Ford Escort Mk2 pairing Paul and Jessica Swift. The Subaru WRC of John Cope and Arron Newby had risen to sixth after Champion dropped 30 seconds when he sideswiped a chicane.
No sooner had the bumper crowd stopped buzzing from Malcolm Wilson demonstrating the ex-hannu Mikkola Audi quattro Sport in the lunchtime recess than the action reconvened on the stages. Procter wasn’t fastest for once but still increased his lead. The honour of top time went to the Woodhouse pairing. A big spin cost Procter 10 seconds on SS6, but he still held a half-minute advantage as dusk fell just before the penultimate stage.
A huge effort by Procter put him fastest again to increase his lead over Renwick by 21 seconds on SS7 to lead by nearly a minute, while Bardy relinquished his third place due to an oil pressure problem that forced him to pull into retirement.
The event was Procter’s to lose heading into the final stage, but he made no mistakes and ran out a comfortable winner by 57 seconds over the spirited Renwick, who in turn claimed his best Christmas Stages result. Woodhouse finished third – despite a 10-second penalty for corner cutting – just 10 seconds back was Swift, suffering badly from the flu, in fourth. Cope took fifth on his Croft debut, while Champion, courtesy of fastest time on the final stage in the battered ex-piero Liatti/didier Auriol car just pipped Steve and Seb Perez, in their ex-markko Martin Focus WRC, for sixth.
Class 1 staged an epic battle between Joe Cunningham/marc Fowler (Vauxhall Corsa) and Mat and Amanda Smith (Proton Satria) that went the former’s way by seven seconds. In an equally competitive Class 2, Barry and Michael Lindsay (Peugeot 106) beat the Vauxhall Corsa of Mark and Andrew Constantine by a mere six seconds. Late entries Darren Moon/robin Shuttleworth (Ford Escort) beat Edward Todd and Andy Brown’s GTM by 12 seconds to win Class 3, with the Swifts taking Class 4 and Cope/ Newby victorious in Class 5.
Results 1 Kevin Procter/ Dave Bellerby (Subaru Impreza WRC) 54m09s; 2 Barry Renwick/ Steve Dargan (Proton Millington) +57s; 3 Ian Woodhouse/ Stephen Woodhouse (Ford Escort); 4 Paul Swift/jessica Swift (Ford Escort); 5 John Cope/arron Newby (Subaru WRC); 6 Ryan Champion/jemma Champion (Subaru 555); 7 Steve Perez/ Seb Perez (Ford Focus WRC); 8 David Wright/ Michael Wilkinson (Ford Escort); 9 Graeme Bell/ Russ Radford (Ford Escort); 10 Peter Smith/ Graham Wild (MG Metro 6R4).
Class winners 1: Joe Cunningham/ Marc Fowler (Vauxhall Corsa); 2: Barry Lindsay/ Michael Lindsay (Peugeot 106); 3: Darren Moon/ Robin Shuttleworth (Ford Escort Mk2); 4; Woodhouse/ Woodhouse (Escort Mk2); 5: Procter/ Bellerby.
Rallycross driver Procter was impressive Renwick pushed hard in the Proton Millington
Malcolm and Matthewwilson gave the Christmas Stages crowd a sight to remember as they demonstrated an ex-hannu Mikkola Group B Audi quattro.the car belongs to Steve Perez, who was competing in his ex-markko Martin Ford Focuswrc (right). Ryan Champion also brought out his ex-works Subaru Impreza for a rare appearance (far right).the Group A-spec car was campaigned by Piero Liatti and Didier Auriol.