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Newly crowned RAVENOL British Trial and Rally Drivers Association Champion Stephen Petch is preparing to test himself against the renowned North York Moors forest stages and his local rival Charlie Payne when contesting the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on September 29th/30th.

Petch, from Hamsterley in Co. Durham, sealed the BTRDA Gold Star title for the first time, driving a Ford Fiesta WRC at Woodpecker Rally in Wales at the beginning of the month, but says missing the Filey-based Trackrod was never an option. He stresses:

“It’s the one I look forward to every year – it’s my local rally, it’s very fast and it’s the one everyone wants to do.”

Ripon Dairy owner Payne has won the Trackrod Forest Stages Rally, which runs throughout Saturday, for the past two years and has his eyes set on a straight hat-trick – achieved only once previously on the event, by Chris Mellors between 1994 and 1996.

The Forest Stages event runs parallel to the Trackrod Historic Cup, for the eye-catching rally cars of yesteryear, which begins Friday evening and forms the final round of the Mintex MSA British Historic Championship, where another epic battle for supremacy is expected.

In total around 150 vehicles to take to the forests near Pickering to tackle five different stages, with the fast and furious Dalby test being run twice, as it kicks-off proceedings in spectacular fashion, in total darkness, on Friday night for the Historic competitors.

Petch’s success in the BTRDA Championship comes exactly 25 years after his father Steve, who starts 10 cars further back in another, slightly lower specification Fiesta S2000, took the crown behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza.

Last year Petch finished just 22.8 seconds behind Payne’s similar Fiesta, while 12 months before that he was again right up his North Yorkshire rival’s exhaust pipe entering the penultimate stage when he was forced out by mechanical failure.

The 33-year old Durham driver did win the Forest Stages section of the rally in 2013, this time outpacing Payne by 36 seconds, and stresses that next week’s latest chapter is likely to be just as close. Petch said:

“Charlie’s local too so I suppose it’s always nice to get one over on people you know well.

“I guess there is a bit of rivalry between us.

“Last year I suffered with misfiring problems all day and the year before I think I was guilty of over exuberance.

“I had a couple of “offs” and finally broke the car!”

“Last year I was in the R5+ whereas this year I’m in a full World Rally Car – the 2016 version but built for the World Championship and so probably made to a higher quality and thus more reliable.”

That reliability has led to Petch clinching taking the BTRDA Championship with a round to spare (the Trackrod) and with it also taking the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship.

The Historic Cup features cars built prior to 1986 and is split into categories, dependant upon age.

Builth Wells-based title holder Jason Pritchard has taken maximum points on the last three rounds of the British Historic Championship in a Ford Escort, to now stand just three points ahead of the similar vehicle driven by Cheltenham’s Nick Elliott, the previous series leader.

It’s winner takes all with whichever driver finishes ahead taking the title and Pritchard set to become the first man ever to take the crown three years in succession should he be triumphant..

Multiple Scottish Champion and Malton rallying legend Steve Bannister is, like Payne, bidding for a consecutive hat-trick of victories in the Historic Cup but faces a high class field including, in addition to Pritchard and Elliott, runner-up from 12 months ago Steve Bennett (Ross-on-Wye) , Mark Bentley (Newton) and Adam Milner (Malton) – all but one of last year’s top six finishers – with Ripon’s former BTRDA Silver Star Champion Matthew Robinson threatening to upset the Escort brigade in his distinctive Fiat 131.

The oldest driver on show is likely to be Cleckheaton’s Bob Bean, now 77, in a Lotus Cortina similar to the one he first peddled almost half a Century ago.

These gleaming vehicles from what s often called “rallying’s golden era”, plus a handful of highly competitive Armed Forces and civilian Land Rovers, set the weekend’s action in motion on Friday evening.

They will assembled along The Beach, Filey around 6pm for a spectacular parade, with plentiful opportunities for photographs and autographs, before being flagged off at one-minute intervals, amid a ceremonial start, by the town’s Mayor Councillor Richard Walker and his Mayoress Mrs Jacqui Walker an hour later.

Following a leisurely run out to the forests, when statutory speed limits must be strictly observed, the competitive action commences with an 11.58-mile stage in Dalby Forest prior to an overnight halt.

The following morning they join up with the more modern cars contesting the Trackrod Forest Stages for a further five, timed to the fraction of a second, tests in the neighbouring Langdale, Staindale, Gale Rigg and Cropton forests before another potentially decisive run through Dalby Forest – adding another 45 competitive miles.

Special spectator areas are provided in Dalby and Cropton with full facilities and catering. while the finish, with commentary and no doubt plenty of champagne spraying, will again be along Filey Beach Road from around 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

The organisers ask all spectators, whether in Filey or the North York Moors forests, to remain in the areas designated for them at all times and to heed any requests made by the numerous marshals for everyone’s safety.

The 40th running of the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire also forms a round of numerous single-make and regional title races, such as the Motoscope Northern Historic Rally Championship, DMack ST Trophy, The ANCC Chonka Stage Rally Championship, The ANWWC Forest Rally Championship, the ANECCC SG Petch Stage Rally Championship and the MG ZR Rally Challenge.

Further details of the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, including up to date entry list (with home towns) please see:
Twitter: @rallyyorkshire

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