NORTH YORKSHIRE rally driver Ryan Champion overcame the extreme weather conditions as well as some strong opposition to win last weekend’s gruelling five-day Roger Albert Clark Rally.

Champion, from Castleton, along with York co-driver, Craig Thorley, brought their Tuthill Porsche 911 over the finish ramp in Carmarthen late on Monday afternoon to win by over four minutes and, in doing so, became the first non-Ford Escort crew to take victory on the event which was inaugurated in 2004.

The bi-annual event, which replicates the Lombard RAC Rallies of the 1970s and 80s, saw 139 crews, mainly in period cars and limited to two-wheel drive, converge on the Carlisle start last Thursday afternoon before tackling four stages in the treacherous Kielder Forest in darkness. The opening loop claimed a couple of leading names but saw Champion and Thorley return to the overnight halt in fourth overall and leading their class.

Friday’s action returned to the southernmost part of Kielder with eight further stages during the day, but with the arrival of Storm Arwen, which caused major disruption and forced the event to be temporarily suspended as crews, officials, marshals, and spectators were stranded in the forests, Champion maintained his fourth place overall.

Saturday’s proposed leg into Scotland was cancelled while the various rally personnel were extracted from the forests, including many competitors who had to spend the night in their rally cars until roads of snaw and fallen trees could be cleared.

With the worst of the storm having passed, the organisers restarted the rally on Sunday where the remaining crews tackled six of the classic Welsh forests. There, Champion climbed to third overall when leader Jason Pritchard crashed out.

Five final tests awaited the crews in Walters Arena and Crychan and with a typical sting in the tail, it saw the two leading cars of Osian Price and Paul Barrett retire, handing the lead to Champion. He made no mistakes from there to claim one of the biggest victories of his and long-term friend and co-driver Thorley’s illustrious careers.

Easingwold’s Richard Spink and Helperby co-driver Nigel Hutchinson had a relatively trouble-free run to finish 19th overall and 13th in class in their Ford Escort, while Middlesbrough's Andy Davison claimed a class win and 25th overall in his Sunbeam.

Lealholm driver Nick Cook and Whitby co-driver Dave Raw brought their Ford Escort Mk1 home in 40th overall, second in class and seventh on the Open class, while Thirlby’s Terry Cree, co-driven as ever by Richard Shores from Boltby, enjoyed a good run in their BMW 2002 to claim 76th overall of the 100 finishers including 63rd in the Historic category and second in class.

Bolton-on-Swale co-driver Cat Lund guided Adrian Drury to 87th overall, sixth in class in their Talbot Sunbeam, but Barnard Castle's Tim Metcalfe had to retire his and Ripon co-driver Mark Casey’s Ford Escort on Friday.