Tom Cave was left celebrating in the Scarborough sunshine after emerging victorious from the closest ever finish to the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on Saturday.
The 20-year old from Aberdovey edged a day-long battle with fellow rising Welsh star Osian Pryce, in a similar Citroen DS3 R3, on a tie-break after the two had shared exactly the same total time of one hour, six minutes, 21.4 seconds after over 66 miles of high speed rallying on the North York Moors.
Cave and co-driver Craig Parry (Oswestry) claimed victory by virtue of having cleared the opening stage in Dalby Forest on Friday night quickest, but again by a mere tenth of a second over 15.45 miles.
The duo were fastest over the first three stages before Pryce and Abersoch’s Iestyn Williams hit back, going quickest through Cropton and Dalby 2 and aided by Cave clipping a bank, to take an almost nine-second advantage going into the final test – 14 miles in Langdale Forest.
Incredibly they emerged absolutely level on total time only for Cave to be given the verdict on a ‘tie break’:
“I never make things easy for myself,” commented an almost disbelieving Cave afterwards. “When I made that mistake (clipping a back on the penultimate stage) I never thought I’d get nine seconds back but I just kept pushing until the very end!”
Ireland’s Keith Cronin was largely happy to complete the rally in third place and so seal his third British title, adding to those won in 2009 and 2010, so moving alongside Mark Higgins in the all-time list and only behind Jimmy McRae (five times champion) and Roger Clark (four).
Cave’s second win of the season – he took the Bulldog Rally of North Wales in March – secured second spot in the title race with Pryce finishing third.
Malton potato farmer Steve Bannister, 61, was the first to taste the victors’ champagne in Scarborough after taking the Trackrod Pre-87 and Historic Cup for the third successive year in his trademark and trusty Mk2 Escort.
Bannister’s ascension to local legend status began in the late 1980s when, in a similar Ford, he became the first driver to win the main Trackrod Rally three times outright and, a quarter of a century later, he is still thought by many to as quick as almost anyone over his native North Yorkshire forest tracks.
The Historic Cup led the entourage into the dark at Dalby on Friday and was first to emerge, all done and dusted, over the finish ramp on the sea-side resort’s West Pier, just after 1pm on Saturday.
Bannister and Scottish co-driver Louise Sutherland were fastest on each of the four stages to take the Historic honours by 1 minute, 34.8 seconds from the RS1800 Escort driven by Harrogate’s Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks (Elgin), with Hollingbourne’s James Potter and Bob Duck, in yet another Escort, third.
Stefaan Stouf and Joris Erard regularly bring their Mk1 Escort across from Belgium for the Yorkshire event as, not for the first time, returned over the North Sea with class spoils for cars registered prior to 1974, while Lydney driver Graham Waite’s stunning sixties Volvo Amazon reigned supreme in the oldest category.
Clitheroe’s Russ Thompson led the BRC Challenge Rally 12 months ago before being frustrated but there were no disappointments this time as the Lancastrian’s Renault Clio proved fastest on each of the four stages comprising the main British Championship’s support series.
Already crowned Challenge Champion Richard Sykes slid off in the dark and out of contention on Friday but even his continued presence in the Saturday sun could do nothing to match the relentless pace that saw Thompson quickest everywhere.
After the drama surrounding Cave’s success, there was a further twist in the tale as the Ford Focus of Hartlepool veteran Peter Stephenson won the Trackrod Clubman’s Trophy for the second successive year, but only after Stephen Petch Junior (from Bishop Auckland) saw his Hyundai Accent’s 40-second advantage disintegrate during a traumatic final stage in Langdale.