While Irishman Keith Cronin strives to clinch his third MSA British Championship (BRC) at the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on Friday and Saturday in Ryedale and Scarborough, a host of the north-east’s top drivers are set to do battle in the associated events.
Citroen DS3 R3 driver Cronin needs just a top-eight finish in the ‘International’ event - this year restricted to two-wheel drive cars in a ground-breaking and potentially trend-setting move by the BRC organisers - to add to the titles he won in 2009 and 2010.
But all around him on the stages are an array of cars, past and present, whose crews have their sights set on different silver and glassware.
The Trackrod ‘Pre 78 & Historic’ Cup, for vehicles from the “golden era” of British rallying and registered prior to 1987, and Trackrod Clubman’s Trophy - a less restricted competition encompassing everything from Ford Focus and Hyundai Accent World Rally Cars - account for well over two-thirds of the total entry.
Trackrod legend Steve Bannister, from Malton - the first man to win the main rally three times during the 1980s - will be bidding to win the Historic Cup for a third successive season and, in so doing, move another step closer to clinching the Motoscope Northern Historic Championship.
Bannister has steered his trusty Mk2 Escort to no fewer than seven Scottish Two-wheel drive Championships and this year is locked in battle with triple and defending champion Charlie Taylor (from Northallerton) for the Northern Historic trophy.
Taylor, in a similar Escort, currently leads the series by nine points but, with only six of the 10-round scores to count in the final analysis, it is Bannister, with four wins to his name already, who holds the upper hand.
Cleckheaton’s Bob Bean - a former works driver who finished third overall in the 1968 RAC Rally and the oldest man in the forests at 75 - campaigns another Escort.
Harrogate’s Tim Pearcey (Escort RS1800) has experienced both the highs and the lows of rallying on Yorkshire’s premier event - securing a memorable National/Clubman’s double when the events were run on separate days in 2005, before crashing at 120mph two years later and being airlifted out of the forests with a broken neck.
While the cherished ‘historic’ cars run ahead of the ‘International’ Trackrod Rally Yorkshire so are first into the stages, the Clubman’s Trophy, which takes place wholly on Saturday, concludes the action.
Peter Stephenson, from Hartlepool, and Ian Windress (Northallerton) defend the title they won 12 months ago in a gleaming Ford Focus, while Gary Cooper (York, Subaru Impreza) and Steve Petch (Scorton, Mitsubishi Lancer) will be hoping to improve on second and third places in 2011.
This year’s action, which begins with a ceremonial send-off on Scarborough’s West Pier on Friday evening (parade and autographs from 5pm), goes into Dalby Forest for the first of two runs through 15.45-mile stage later that evening, all sections of the rally continuing through Saturday
Competitors are due back over the finish ramp, back on West Pier, at various times during the afternoon: Historic from 12.55pm, International (the British Championship competitors) from 4.55pm and finally the Clubmen from 5.52pm.
Additional entertainment is laid on by a variety of the area’s best musical talents on a stage adjacent to the start/finish ramp.
This begins at 4.15pm on Friday and 11.45am, then 4pm on Saturday.