SHILDON'S Barry Johnson put up a sterling fight, but had to give second best to Shropshire driver Andy Burton on last weekend's Willingham's Recovery North Humberside Forest Stages Rally in North Yorkshire.

Driving a hybrid Peugeot Cosworth, Burton and co-driver Rob Morgan arrived at the finish in Hull 15 seconds ahead of local ace Johnson and his co-driver Stewart Merry in their Subaru Impreza.

But Burton did not have things all his own way. Reigning national champion Mark Perrott (Leominster) was leading after the first two stages in his Ford Escort WRC before dropping to third.

After the stage at Oliver's Mount motorcycle race track in Scarborough, the rally moved on to the forests around Pickering and it was there that gravel specialist Burton was able to exert his authority and take the win.

BTRDA Gold Star Championship leader Brian Bell from Skegness (Ford Focus WRC) was fourth, while Ripon's Charlie Payne and co-driver Craig Thorley (Subaru Impreza) were just behind in fifth.

The battle for two-wheel drive honours in the Silver Star Championship went the way of Malton legend Steve Bannister, whose Ford Escort RS finished 45 seconds ahead of the similar car of Midlander Jason Lepley.

Other local crews contesting the event included the Thirsk pairing of Tim Pearcey and Mick Johnson, who brought their Ford Escort home 27th overall and third in class, while Thirsk builder Ian Rudd and co-driver Dick Wardle managed 48th overall in their Ford Cosworth.

Lealholm's Nick Cook and co-driver Nigel Hutchinson finished 52nd overall and fourth in class in their Ford Escort, but three of the fancied runners never made it to the finish.

Castleton driver Ryan Champion retired his and co-driver Cliff Simmons' Mitsubishi after problems on the opening stage and Redcar's Dave Craven went off the road a stage later in the Ford Cosworth he was sharing with Hartburn co-driver Ian Jackson.

Comeback driver Matt Yeadon (Pickhill) and co-driver Richard Shores from Boltby also crashed out on the final stage in their Ford Sapphire.

For the first time for a number of years, the event ran a capacity entry of 180 cars, with contenders for the Silkolene 1400 Championship running at the front of the field. The 60 starters included competitors contesting the second round of the Ford Rallye Sport Ka Rally Championship.

A record 26 Kas took to the start ramp, with local interest centred around four crews in particular. Victory went to the Oxfordshire crew of Jonnie Wigmore and co-driver Robbie Durant, but they were made to fight all the way after the six demanding stages.

Second place on the day went to Scorton driver Stephen Petch and his co-driver Michael Wilkinson, who actually set fastest Ka time over the opening stage at Oliver's Mount.

Another fastest time on the second of the forest stages kept them in the hunt and, after 45 miles of competitive motoring, they finished just 11 seconds behind the winners to lie fifth in the points standings.

After the disappointment of retiring while leading their class on the last event, Jonny Brown (Great Broughton) and Harmby co-driver James Lester adopted a more cautious approach and enjoyed a trouble-free run.

However, finding it difficult to gauge the pace due to lack of information regarding stage times, the pair took it a little too conservatively and ended up in a disappointing tenth place in class.

Two experienced co-drivers were also drafted into action in the Ford Ka championship when Northallerton's Ian Windress guided Irishman John Carroll to 18th in class, while Paul Hudson from Darlington assisted Costa Rican Gigi Bettencourt-Gomez to 20th in class.

The next round of the championship is the Pirelli Northumbria Rally, based in Gateshead, on April 25 and 26.

l North Yorkshire motorcycle racer Russ Hodgson marked an impressive debut in the brand new Virgin Mobile Yamaha R6 Cup with a superb top ten placing in the opening round at Silverstone last Sunday.

The 21-year-old from Yarm was making his four-stroke debut after a number of seasons riding in the 125cc class and immediately took to the 600cc machine, which are all prepared to identical standards.

Rusty posted ninth best time in qualifying to start the 16-lap race from row three, but as soon as the lights turned to green, he slotted into the top half dozen.

However, an opening lap crash involving another rider brought out the pace car for three laps and, as soon as racing recommenced, Hodgson was engaged in a titanic battle with a host of other young riders for the leaderboard places.

Without the experience many of his rivals gained in last season's Junior Superstock, Hodgson gamely hung on to clinch ninth position at the flag, less than a quarter of a second down on the rider in front of him.

The meeting also incorporated the first round of the British Supersport Championship, with Darlington's Mark Burr representing the region to good effect.

The 22-year-old qualified his Carbontek Yamaha in 20th place on the grid, but made a good start to move inside the top 20.

Burr had fought his way up to an impressive 12th position when the race was prematurely red-flagged four laps short due to an oil spillage on the track.

More points came the way of Guisborough rider Dennis Hobbs, who endured a race-long battle to end up 13th in the National Superstock race.

The 20-year-old had handicapped himself with a sixth row starting position, but gamely battled through the field aboard the 1000cc Krystal Suzuki to score his first points of the season.

Sadly, the region's 125cc contingent couldn't reciprocate when Stockton's Michael Hill could only manage 21st position on the Taboo Motorsport Honda after Middlesbrough teenager Paul Veazey had retired his Banks GV Honda on lap nine of 16.

* Yafforth driver Dave Bellerby made sure his trip across the water was worthwhile with a stunning performance in rounds two and three of the MSA British Rallycross Championship in Ireland last weekend.

Driving the two-litre Vauxhall Nova, Bellerby followed up a superb seventh place in Saturday's Superfinal at Nutts Corner with an even more impressive fourth place the following day at Mondello.

Bellerby also added a runner-up spot in the competitive Modified class to his points tally before repeating the feat the following day.

Hartlepool's Des Wheatley finished fourth in his 1.8 Rover Metro in his first meeting of the season, while veteran Tony Bardy from Scotch Corner managed a second place in the Stock Hatch class before following up with a fourth place in his Peugeot 205.

* A report on the Derby Phoenix meeting at Croft will appear next week