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WWRS pre-Hamsterley13bA truly sensational entry will line up for the SG Petch Tour of Hamsterley (Sunday 28 April), the second round of the West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C. Rally Championship. With Steve Bannister, Marty McCormack and Nick Elliott at the head of the historic field, it is going to be fiercely competitive and with a total historic entry of 65 cars, it is one of the best fields ever seen in the north of England.

The quality of entry runs right through the field as over 50 crews from the WWRS R.A.C. Rally Championship are joined by a strong contingent from the Motoscope Northern Historic Rally Championship. Add in a quality 26-car field of modern cars, and fans will be in for a superb day in the Hamsterley forest complex in County Durham.

The Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club has developed the R.A.C. championship, which focuses on historic rally cars complying with MSA historic regulations. But, significantly, it is also opening up the chance for the next generation of cars to join the historic fraternity.

The championship is running over seven one-day gravel rallies in England, Scotland and Wales. The championship caters for cars from MSA historic Categories One, Two and Three as well as cars prepared to FIA Appendix K. Additional classes accommodate cars built up to the end of 1986 as well as other pre ’87 cars that do not fully comply with historic regulations.

The big talking point of the rally will be the continuation of the fabulous contest between the Ford Escort Mk2s of McCormack and Bannister from last year’s Roger Albert Clark Rally. McCormack narrowly won that contest, but Bannister will be determined to level the score in Hamsterley. Louise Sutherland partners Bannister this time around. When they tackled a stage in Hamsterley on the November event, Bannister beat McCormack by a single second, so it is going to be very close.

However, Elliott and Dave Price will head north as the current championship leaders after a thrilling victory over McCormack on the season-opening Mid Wales Stages. Elliott does not know Hamsterley very well at all, but will be right in the thick of what promises to be an epic contest. In fact, his only prior experience of Hamsterley was in the dark and snow of the 2010 Roger Albert Clark Rally.

Of course, this is certainly not only a three-way battle in the Rob Smith Rallying Series 3 and it is another Northern Ireland crew of Ryan Barrett and Barry Ferris who will be leading the chase of the top three. Add in more very quick Escort Mk2s for Jason Pritchard/Dale Furniss, Will Onions/Dave Williams, Matthew Robinson/Nigel Hutchinson, Tim Pearcey/Neil Shanks, Matt Edwards/Sam Collis and Rob Smith/Alun Cook and the spectacle is going to be stunning. But that’s only the top 10 crews and many more quick crews pack out the entry. Pritchard is running his car in the Martin Jones Transmissions Series 4 for cars prepared to FIA Appendix K regulations and his speed on the Mid Wales, first time out in an Escort MK2, showed that he is going to be a major contender.

While the top-flight Escort Mk2s dominate Class D5, the superb Vauxhall Chevette of Steve Magson/Geoff Atkinson joins the championship to head class D4 and is the only non-Escort in the top 30.

At the top of Class D3, the Opel Kadett of Peter Smith/Patrick Walsh will go head to head with the Ford Escort Mk2 of Ben Mellors/Alex Lee, while crews like Alan Hughes/Richard Wardle and Paul Fry/Mike Steele could get into the mix in their Escort Mk2s.

In the Capital Construction Series 2 (1968-74), championship newcomers Richard Hill and Pat Cooper join the contest in their Ford Escort Mk1 and will be quick, but they face a big challenge from the similar car of round one winners Chris Browne and his wife Ali Cornwell-Browne. Another front-running crew joining Class C5 are Simon Tysoe and Cliffy Simmons in their Escort Mk1 and Nick Jarvis/Alan Carfrae will also be quick.

Meanwhile, the battle for Class C3 will be just as hard-fought. Iwan and Aled Rees started with a maximum score on the Mid Wales in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk1 and will go up against the similar car of Dick Slaughter as well as the potent BMW 2002 of Terry Cree/Richard Shores. In Class C2 for the 1600cc cars, the Escort Mk1 of Robin Shuttleworth and Ron Roughead is the car to beat.

In the Walker Diecastings Series 1 for the pre ’68 cars, the field will be headed by the Lotus Cortina of Simon Wallis/Graham Wride and they will set a cracking pace. Leading the chase will be the gorgeous Alfa Romeo Junior of John Everard/Mark Sharpley and the Singer Chamois of Chris and Jo Tooze. Pete Gunson and Jonny Haynes field their Lotus Cortina, while the wonderful Saab 96 of Steve Higgins completes the R.A.C. field.

The Holton Homes Series 5 caters for cars built up to 1987 and is very much a family affair in Hamsterley as the Toyota Corollas of John Midgley/Geoff Maybank and Will Midgley/Paul Slingsby enact a father versus son battle. Meanwhile, Series 7 for open pre ’87 cars is going to be a contest between the Ford Escort Mk2s of Mark Spencer/Steve Pugh and Robert Cholmondeley/Dave Evans.

The Tour of Hamsterley is organised by Stockton & District Motor Club in association with Teesside Motor Sport Group. More details at: http://www.tourofhamsterley.co.uk

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