UP and coming Heighington star Guy Wilks saw his hopes of a superb result dashed when he was forced to retire within sight of the finish of the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally last weekend.

Driving the Chris Birkbeck Rallysport Ford Puma, prepared at the team's Brotton workshops, Wilks and new co-driver Phil Pugh were lying in an impressive seventh place in the Junior World Rally Championship class when a wheel stud sheared on SS12, forcing them out just two stages from home.

Having celebrated his 22nd birthday just prior to the opening round of the World Championship, Wilks played a tactical game at the start of the event, taking it easy on the drier opening stage to preserve his studded tyres for the snow of SS2.

Pugh also had reason to celebrate as his wife gave birth to a daughter on the night of the rally start. The happy duo went into SS3 with intermediate tyres on the front and studs on the rear, but this provided too much grip and overheated the rear tyres.

For the much snowier SS4, the pair swapped the front tyres for studded options and the Puma's balance was restored, although two spins in the final metres of SS5 served as a warning that the event can always bite back.

After day one, Wilks held seventh overall and was in the points as the introduction of the new scoring system for 2003 rewards the top eight crews.

Day two on Saturday saw Wilks complete only one competitive stage due to a number of problems outside his control. The combination of a cancelled opening stage of the day because of spectator safety concerns and a motorway accident which prevented the junior world championship crews from reaching the afternoon's two stages left the County Durham ace with just one opportunity to progress up the leaderboard.

However, that single stage (SS8) was enough for Wilks to push his car into sixth place and close in on fifth-placed driver Ville-Perti Teuronen.

Wilks could have been even higher but for a 20-second penalty for late departure from the morning's first service halt.

But they were fortunate to spot some play in a front wheel hub joint just before they were due to leave service. Fixing it meant they were a couple of minutes late leaving service, but had they not spotted it they might have gone out of the rally.

Wilks dropped a place on the opening stage of the final day before deciding to change tyres before SS12. As they did so, a front left wheel stud sheared off.

They planned to drive to the next stage with caution until the problem could be rectified by their service crew, but the extra stress of hard cornering on the tarmac terrain of the Principality caused the wheel to come off and the crew had no option but to abandon the car at the roadside.

Wilks said: "On the first stage today I'd lost a few seconds with a spin on the Col du Turini, but after that everything was fine.

"I caught and passed a car on the descent and everything was going well. My times on this event have been good and I didn't make a single mistake. I knew I was good for four points at least, possibly even more.

"Nevertheless, you can't look back and I must be positive about the rest of the season. I've no reason to think I can't do well this year."

Team manager Chris Birkbeck added: "I'm very sorry for Guy because he has clearly shown that Ford's 'Ladder of Opportunity' is working and getting young drivers into the World Rally Championship. He has clearly shown that he deserves his place in the Junior World Rally Championship."

The next outing for the team is the second event of the seven-round JWRC and will be a new experience for everyone as it takes the crews to Turkey for the first time. This gravel round has entered the World Rally Championship this season and few drivers will know what to expect until they begin the recce.

The Rally of Turkey takes place from February 28 to March 2 and is based approximately 40km from Antalya.

l With the postponement of the Riponian Rally this year, the honour of staging the first forest action of 2003 in the region will go to De Lacy Motor Club, who report that entries are rapidly filling up for the Kall Kwik Rally on Sunday, February 16.

More than 70 entries have been received by the level one closing date earlier this week. They remain open at a surcharged cost until February 12, but the organisers are confident that the 120-car limit will be reached and are urging competitors to forward their entries as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

A number of top crews have already entered the Pickering-based event which will use the forest complexes of Dalby, Cropton and Staindale. They include last year's winners Steve Petch from Scorton and Northallerton co-driver John Richardson, Hyundai WRC team-mate Paul Bird (Penrith) and Scottish champion Barry Johnson in his Subaru WRC.

British Touring Car champion James Thompson from York has entered in his Mitsubishi, along with Castleton's Ryan Champion (Mitsubishi), Dave Craven from Redcar (Ford Cosworth) and Richard Welford (Bedale) in his Escort Cosworth.

For further details, contact Bob Lodge on 01977 683556.

* After two successful seasons with Hawk Kawasaki, Darlington motorcycle racer Mark Burr has recently struck a deal to ride in the British Supersport Championship for the Carbontek Racing Team.

The 22-year-old impressed in the ultra-competitive British Superbike Championship last season, ending up 16th in the points standings.

But he was unable to secure a ride in the premier class and has opted to race the London-based team's Yamaha R6s.

Carbontek's CEO Nigel Purdon said: "I'm extremely happy with our rider and machine combination, and look forward to getting on the rostrum this year."

Burr said: "My objective is to do the best I can to repay Nigel for this opportunity.

"I feel that, with the machinery and personnel, we are more than able to raise our profiles within the racing industry."

Burr's season kicks off at Silverstone on March 30.

* Popular Yorkshire rider James Whitham will be the guest of honour when the North Yorkshire Road Racing Supporters Club host their annual dinner dance and awards presentation at Romanby Golf Club on Saturday, February 22.

Whitham, who just last week announced his retirement from the sport due to a persistent vision problem, is the honorary president of the Northallerton-based club and is expected to receive an award to mark his 20 years in the sport.

Tickets are still available and cost £18 each.

Meanwhile, two of the country's brightest talents visit NYRRSC on Tuesday when Karl Harris and Leon Haslam take part in a chat show at Northallerton Town FC.

Harris, originally from Harrogate, and Haslam, son of the legendary 'Rocket Ron' will both contest this season's British Supersport Championship and will be chatting to fans from 8.30 onwards.

Information on both events is available from Sue Symons on 01904 339647