Rally re­ports

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Larry Carter Pho­tos: Kevin Money

Or­gan­iser: Dar­ling­ton and District Mo­tor Club When: Jan­uary 17 Where: Croft Cir­cuit, North York­shire Cham­pi­onships: MN Cir­cuit Rally Cham­pi­onship in as­so­ci­a­tion with MSVR; North of Eng­land Tar­ma­cadam Cham­pi­onship; ANCC; ANECCC Stages: 8 Starters: 89

The first sub-zero tem­per­a­tures of this un­usu­ally mild win­ter came just in time for the aptly named Jack Frost Stages at Croft Cir­cuit.

Freez­ing con­di­tions overnight and an odd snow flurry greeted the im­pres­sive cast, which had as­sem­bled for the fourth round of the Mo­tor­sport News Cir­cuit Rally Cham­pi­onship in as­so­ci­a­tion with MSVR and they didn’t dis­ap­point.

With top seed and ex-win­ner Tony Bardy a non-starter due to prob­lems with his Ford Fo­cus WRC on a pre­vi­ous event, it was left to the more mod­ern ver­sion of Guy Smith and Pa­trick Walsh to up­hold Blue Oval hon­our and, de­spite only se­cur­ing a run as a re­serve lit­er­ally 48 hours be­fore the start, they emerged vic­to­ri­ous.

But it was by no means straight­for­ward for the 2003 Le Mans win­ner. He was de­but­ing the ex-char­lie Payne car and he did set fastest time on the open­ing stage, com­plete with in­ter­mit­tent icy patches as a veil of freez­ing fog blan­keted the York­shire race­track.

Scots­man Alan Kirkaldy de­fied his lowly seed­ing to set se­cond fastest time just four sec­onds back in his Ford Es­cort on SS1, with ANECCC win­ners Barry and Michael Lind­say third up in Steve Petch’s Mit­subishi, which they were us­ing as their prize drive.

Smith ex­tended his ad­van­tage as the fog lifted on SS2 as fan­cied run­ners Ash­ley and Fred Field found pace in their Dar­rian to stop the clocks se­cond fastest and move up to fifth over­all. The Es­cort Mk2s of Paul and Jes­sica Swift and Kirkaldy/ Garry Muir started a bat­tle that would last all rally long, but for now, Kirkaldy held sway over Swift af­ter SS2.

Smith was fastest on SS3, ahead of Field, with the Ford Fo­cus WRC of Peter Stephen­son/ian Win­dress third quick­est and show­ing good speed at their lo­cal event. By SS4, most of the ice had gone and, de­spite tem­per­a­tures hov­er­ing around freez­ing, track con­di­tions were im­prov­ing, much to the de­light of Field, who clawed eight sec­onds back off Smith go­ing into the lunchtime turn­around.

By now, Smith’s lead was at 25 sec­onds, ahead of the im­prov­ing Field who, in turn, was 15 sec­onds to the good over Kirkaldy. Fourth was lo­cal stunt ace Swift, a fur­ther five sec­onds adrift, with Stephen­son 11 sec­onds fur­ther back in fifth. Com­plet­ing the top six was John Stone/tommi Mead­ows who were giv­ing the Ford Fi­esta S2000 (with a 2.5-litre Milling­ton en­gine) a de­but run.

With tem­per­a­tures plum­met­ing in the af­ter­noon, Smith re­sumed his bat­tle with Field and went fastest by a se­cond on SS5 be­fore Field re­sponded to re­duce the deficit to 22 sec­onds on SS6.

Be­hind th­ese two, Swift and Kirkaldy were still hard at it and, af­ter SS6, just four sec­onds sep­a­rated the two pow­er­ful Fords, with fifth­placed Stephen­son now com­ing un­der pres­sure from Barry Ren­wick/steve Dargan in their Pro­ton.

As dusk fell, Smith knew the fi­nal pair of six-mil­ers were go­ing to be cru­cial and his plan was to pro­tect his lead, but with ice now start­ing to form, that wasn’t go­ing to be easy. SS7 saw him ex­tend his lead to an im­por­tant 30 sec­onds, as Field could only man­age third fastest be­hind a re­ju­ve­nated Stephen­son, who had hoisted him­self up to fourth over­all be­hind Swift go­ing into the dark­ness of the fi­nal stage.

As ex­pected, Smith took it rel­a­tively steady to emerge third fastest as Field claimed his third stage vic­tory, but de­spite his gal­lant ef­fort, he al­ways knew the rally was Smith’s to lose in the lat­ter stages in the four-wheeldrive Fo­cus. The fi­nal deficit was 25 sec­onds.

Swift claimed the fi­nal podium spot ex­actly a minute fur­ther down, with the im­pres­sive Kirkaldy claim­ing fourth on count­back hav­ing tied with Stephen­son on times.

Ren­wick bat­tled his way up to sixth spot, ahead of Stone, with the Subaru of David White/kurt Doane in eighth.

The all-re­nault Clio bat­tle went the way of Steve Quigley/tom Hutch­ings in ninth.

The 2003 Le Mans win­ner Smith won Jack Frost Stages Rally

Paul Swift im­pressed with podium in an­other rally out­ing Steve Quigley gave the Clio a thrash­ing to ninth and an­other class win

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