THREE years on from his son, Guy, winning the Darlington & DMC-organised Jack Frost Stages Rally at Croft Circuit, it was the turn of Peter Smith to claim the honours following a thrilling tussle that lasted throughout the day, writes Larry Carter.

Along with co-driver, Patrick Walsh, in his Ford Fiesta RSWRC, Smith triumphed by just seven seconds at the end of eight closely-fought stages, narrowly seeing off Alan Kirkaldy and Cameron Fair in their Ford Fiesta. Former national champion, John Stone (Ford Fiesta WRC), was a further nine seconds back in third.

With unusually dry conditions prevailing, it was last year’s winners, Barry Lindsay and Caroline Lodge, who were fastest on SS1 in their SGP Motorsport Ford Fiesta S2000.

A second separated the top four crews after SS2, with Kirkaldy having taken the lead, and by halfway, his advantage over Stone was three seconds with Smith a further two back in third.

The crucial stage turned out to be SS5, with Smith stopping the clocks seven seconds ahead of Stone and a spin dropping Kirkaldy 17 seconds to scupper his bid.

From there, Smith, who lives near York, was never headed, and although Scotsman Kirkaldy set the fastest time on the final two stages, it wasn’t enough to wrest victory from Smith with Lancastrian Stone in third.

Best of the locals were the returning duo of Tony Bardy from Scotch Corner and Mickleton co-driver Tony Walker (Ford Focus WRC), who posted fourth ahead of the best 2WD runners Paul and Jessica Swift (Ford Escort) from Great Smeaton with Lee and Cole Hastings (Subaru) in sixth.

Seventh up was the Subaru WRC of Kepwick businessman Peter Stephenson and co-driver Antony Jones with the ever-impressive Joe Cunningham from Leeming taking eighth overall in his newly acquired Procter’s-backed Subaru Impreza he was sharing with Northallerton co-driver Marc Fowler.

Alistair Hutchinson from Mickleton and Staindrop co-driver St John Dykes took ninth and a class win in their Renault Clio, with team-mate Mark Thompson from Staindrop and Barnard Castle co-driver Jordan English tenth in their Peugeot 206.