REDCAR driver Dave Craven saw his hopes of the runner-up spot disappear by the narrowest of margins when a stalled engine cost him second place on last weekend's Robin Hood Stages Rally in Nottinghamshire.

Craven and co-driver Ian Jackson, from Hartburn, were challenging for overall honours when they overshot a corner and the resulting stall cost them about 15 seconds in their NSS Ford Sapphire Cosworth.

The pair fought back, but couldn't wrest second place back from Driffield driver John Coates, missing out by just seven seconds after the 45-stage mile event in the Sherwood Forest complex.

Pre-event favourite Kevin Procter was hoping to emulate last year's success, but an electrical problem on the opening two stages put paid to the Leeming driver's challenge.

Despite dropping a load of time, Procter and co-driver Dave Bellerby, from Yafforth, bounced back to set fastest time on the latter stages in their Procter's Coaches Ford Escort Cosworth, but to no avail.

Middleton Tyas co-driver Peter Croft just missed out on a top ten position by guiding Yorkshireman Dave Marshall to 11th in their Subaru, while the Durham pair of Keith Scarr and Michael Wilkinson ended up 15th in their Ford Escort Mk1 in the Historic section.

l The first World Rally Championship event in Turkey proved a demanding test of both man and machine, but a mature drive from Ford Puma team driver Guy Wilks saw him finish third while many of his Junior World Rally Championship rivals reflected on mechanical failures which destroyed their chances over the three-day rally.

Driving the 1600cc Ford Puma 1600 prepared at the Birkbeck Rallysport HQ at Brotton, the 22-year-old from Heighington overcame the tough conditions to stand fifth at the end of the opening leg on Friday.

A conservative drive had preserved his and Welsh co-driver Phil Pugh's car, but they were elevated a place when a rival was penalised for infringing the strict service regulations and they started the second day in fourth position.

A spirited drive through the second leg saw Wilks edge up the leaderboard into second place, just two minutes behind the leader, Finn Kosti Katajamaki in a VW Polo.

But the day wasn't without its problems as water got into the engine air filter and cut the power on SS9, before the sump guard was damaged, forcing the crew to slow on the next two stages until it could be repaired at service.

The car underwent a major rebuild to give the crew the best chance of fending off the opposition on Sunday's final leg, but bad luck contrived to rob Wilks of a deserved second place.

He first suffered a rear puncture just three stages from home, then the car was stuck in third gear for the remaining two tests, dropping him to third at the finish.

"I'm very disappointed because I felt we deserved second place," said Wilks. "I wasn't pushing hard but on an uphill section I went to change gear and nothing happened. Shortly after that we got a puncture and it was a nervous run to the finish from there.

"I haven't really been able to enjoy this rally as I've had to concentrate too hard on saving the car instead of actually competing".

The worst late winter weather in the Antalya region for a century left the gravel mountain roads in terrible condition and it was only a remarkable effort by the organisers which enabled the event to go ahead as planned.

l Back on the motor sport calendar for the first time since 1996, the rejuvenated MSA British Rallycross Championship is gearing up for the first of its ten events at Croft on Sunday.

Leading the entry list for the championship opener is Pat Doran, who won last year's BRDA Championship in his Ford RS200. Doran, from Milstead in Kent, won four of the ten events in 2002 and ended a five-year domination of the championship by Irish drivers.

Current Irish champion Dermot Carnegie is likely to be Doran's closest challenger, at least at the start of the championship. Carnegie won three events last year, but his Ford Focus WRC was slowed by electronic problems in the opening round of the Irish Championship in February.

The winner of that Irish Championship opener and very much a dark horse for the British title is Carmarthen-based Englishman Mike Manning, who has graduated to the Supercar category this season after many years as a front-running driver in the modified class. Driving a Ford Escort WRC, Manning has proved he has the pace to match the established championship stars and is an exciting new addition to the championship this year.

Leading the modified pack into the 2003 season is champion Gordon Rogers, who took three event wins in 2002.

The leading rivals to his two-litre Vauxhall Corsa will be 2002 runner-up Dave Bellerby, from Yafforth, (2.0 Vauxhall Nova) and Hartlepool's Des Wheatley in his 1.8 MG Metro.

The action starts with practice at noon and racing from 1pm. Admission costs £12 for adults, with accompanied children 15 and under free.

* The classic forests of the Lake District provide the setting for the second round of the BTRDA Rally Championship when the Malcolm Wilson Rally gets under way in Cockermouth tomorrow.

Three-times winner Steve Petch, from Scorton, starts as red hot favourite to lift overall victory after he and co-driver John Richardson (Romanby) won in Grizedale last December.

Driving the same SGP Motorsport Hyundai Accent WRC, they will be the men to beat, but a strong local challenge will mean the former national champions will not have things all their own way.

Event sponsor and former world championship driver Malcolm Wilson wheels out a Ford Focus WRC for his first competitive outing in a decade, with son Matthew alongside him.

The Escort Cosworth's of John Thompson (Clitheroe), in the ex-Anthony Eaton car, and Ian Joel from Carnforth will also pose a threat, while Penrith's Paul Bird has the services of Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress in the MonsterMob Hyundai Accent WRC.

Birtley's Jimmy Knox and co-driver Alec Renwick will be in action in their Talbot Sunbeam, as will the Peugeot 106 of Swainby driver Alun Pearson and his co-driver Simon Brook.

The event also sees the start of the 2003 Ford Rallye Sport Ka Championship, now in its sixth consecutive year, with high hopes of the winner's laurels travelling back across the Pennines.

A total of 22 Kas are scheduled to start and, with all eyes on the end-of-season first prize of the use of a Ford Rallye Sport-supported Super 1600 rally car for the 2004 season, it is sure to be a hard-fought affair.

Leading the way will be 22-year-old Great Broughton student Jonny Brown and his co-driver James Lester, from Harmby, who were title contenders for the BTRDA 1400 championship last season in their venerable Vauxhall Nova.

Brown can expect a stiff challenge from Scorton teenager Stephen Petch, who returns to the series for a third successive year in the Richie Windress-prepared SGP Motorsport Ford Ka he shares with Tow Law's Michael Wilkinson. The pair will hope to improve on last year's ninth place finish, while also challenging for junior honours.

Stanley driver Phil Morton and co-driver Ken Bowman will also be in action in the 1400cc class in their Nissan Sunny, while Darlington-based C S Automotive have two cars entered - a 1400cc Vauxhall Nova driven by Yorkshireman James Walker and a Ford Escort 1600cc with Swindon driver Geoff Whittaker at the controls alongside the experienced Ian Jackson, from Stockton.

Spectator information. - 9am start, Cockermouth; 9.20 & 2pm Hobcarton; 9.30 & 2.15 Comb; 9.50 & 2.30 Wythop; 11.40 Grizedale South; 12.05 Grizedale North; 3pm finish, Cockermouth; 7.30 prize presentation, Sheep & Wool Centre, Cockermouth