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North Yorkshire drivers Charlie Payne and Steve Bannister secured a brace of historic hat-tricks with home victories in the two main sections of the Trackrod Rally which finished in Filey today (Saturday).

Both repeated their successes in 2015 and 2016 with Ripon Dairy owner Payne winning the less restricted Trackrod Forest Stages in a Ford Fiesta WRC and Bannister – the first driver to win the event three times back in the eighties – taking the Historic Cup for vehicles built prior to 1986.

Payne snatched victory by the second closest margin the event’s history -a mere two-tenths of a second – from Co Durham’s newly crowned RAVENOL BTRDA Champion Stephen Petch, after over 45 miles of competitive rallying.

There was just seven second between them going into the final Dalby stage but, despite a titanic effort from Petch, who has also taken the MAXXIS MSA English title, Payne emerged with his nose in front.

“This is a new car to us and we’re still struggling with it,” pointed out Payne, who was partnered by co-driver Carl Williamson, from Ystradowen.

“There is a power difference compared with Stephen’s car and we were losing time on the long fast stages.

“We overshot on the second stage and lost some more time getting back on the road but other than that we are really pleased.

“To win three times on the trot is fantastic!”

Hamsterley-based Petch, co-driven in another Fiesta WRC by Crook’s Michael Wilkinson, was philosophical but admitted:“I’m a bit annoyed to get so close,”

“We lost a lot of time on the first stage but then kept chipping away at his lead.

“We had 7.1 seconds to make up on the last stage and only managed to take back 6.9!

“It’s frustrating but still a good result – another podium but it’s not the place on it that we wanted.”

Payne and Petch might have been looking at the second and third steps on the rostrum had early leaders Hugh Hunter (Ruthin) and Rob Fagg (Kirk Michael, Isle of Man) not been forced to retire at the morning regroup with their Fiesta overheating badly.

Malton farmer Bannister’s victory was equally as tense towards the end as he and Scot Callum Atkinson took their eighties Escort into the last stage, also holding just a seven-second advantage over the similar vehicle piloted by Builth Wells’ garage proprietor Jason Tauber Pritchard.

But Tauber Pritchard had bigger fish to fry – entering the rally in a winner takes the Mintex MSA British Championship head to head with Nick Elliott – and had had the pressure removed when the Cheltenham man crashed in the fourth stage of six in Gale Rigg.

Elliot crucially lost 90 seconds and, although his Escort escaped without much damage, his title hopes were destroyed.

“Once Nick went off , the pressure was off,” recalled Tauber Pritchard

“We were close behind Steve going into the final stage but the championship is the most important thing, although Phil (Clarke – co driver) had to keep reminding me during the stage to just keep it tidy and get round.

That left Bannister to write another chapter in the ever growing legend surrounding him and his favourite Trackrod Rally. He modestly pointed out:

“We were probably a little fortunate with Nick going off and Jason backing off a bit to secure the championship.

“I still had to push a bit, otherwise you lose concentration as I almost lost it (control) about 400 metres from the start!”

Elliott and co-driver Dave Price, also from Cheltenham, epitomised the spirit of the rally by reaching the finish still with philosophical smiles on their faces. Elliott recalled:

“We went just a little bit quick into a right hander, lost it backwards down a bank then took a while to get back up.

“If it had been flat we wouldn’t have lost so much time but we needed the help of a few spectators to help get the car back on the track.

“I’m not over concerned about championships but it would have been nice to win the rally.

“But we’ve still had fun and not done badly for a couple lads in an old chicken shed!”

A total of 96 of the 130 cars which started the event made it through the forests to be greeted back to the finish along Filey sea-front by the town’s mayor and mayoress and a bumper contingent of spectators.

Further details of the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, including full results, please see:
Twitter: @rallyyorkshire

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