SOME of the biggest names in British rallying will converge on Croft Circuit for the Swift Signs and Shirts Winter Stages Rally which takes place at the North Yorkshire track this Sunday.

Organisers Northallerton Automobile Club Ltd and Darlington and District Motor Club have assembled a near capacity 90-car entry for what will be the first rally at Croft for nearly three years, the last one being the Jack Frost Stages Rally in February 2020 before the Covid pandemic struck.

After winning the corresponding 2019 Christmas Stages Rally, rising star Frank Bird from Penrith and his Hexham co-driver Jack Morton are back to defend their title in the World Championship-specification Ford Fiesta Rally 2. Bird, whose dad Paul won the event twice, has sampled victory in his previous two events this year, so is hot favourite to clinch another Croft victory as he starts at car number one.

Following at number two is Willington driver David Henderson who has had a successful season in his Ford Fiesta R5 and will have wife Katie alongside him on the maps as they look to add to his Croft Christmas Stages victory of 21 years ago. Car three is Joe Cunningham from Leeming and Scruton co-driver Josh Beer who are another pair who could challenge for the win in their Ford Fiesta as they aim for an inaugural victory.

Eight-time winner of the event, Kevin Procter, will be hoping he can add to his tally starting at car four. The local businessman from Leeming Bar also won the Jack Frost Rally in 2020 in his Procter’s Luxury Coaches-backed Ford Fiesta S2000 so will return to see if he can make it ten Croft wins with regular Welsh co-driver Patrick Walsh alongside.

The remainder of the entry list oozes class and includes the experienced British Asphalt Championship front-runner Lyndon Barton (Ford Fiesta R5) seeded at number five followed by local ace Paul Swift from Great Smeaton who will contest the event in his 2.5-litre Ford Escort Mk2 alongside wife Jessica.

The top ten is rounded out with Scottish ace Joe McKeand (Subaru Impreza), the powerful Ford Escorts of Harrogate’s Dane Walker and Durham driver Barry Renwick and the Lotus Exige of former Scottish Champion Greg Inglis.

Others to watch out for are Northallerton’s Dave Bellerby (Ford Sapphire) who will also be to the fore, while the likes of Mickleton’s Alistair Hutchinson (Renault Clio), Witton Gilbert drivers Andrew Fawcett (Vauxhall Nova) and Edward Todd (Darrian) along with Stephen Sawley from Spennymoor (Ford Escort) will be amongst the favourites for class wins.

Challenging them will be the likes of Scottish marauder Des Campbell (Peugeot 206) and Ben Wilkinson (Peugeot 106 Maxi) with former British Touring Car Championship driver Harry Vaulkhard from Sunderland entering in a Suzuki Swift for good measure.

The Richmondshire-based Constantine family will be out en masse on the event. Mark and brother Andrew will be major challengers for a class victory in their Vauxhall Corsa, whilst Mark’s two sons, Tom and Luke will make their rallying debut, each driving a recently built MG3. Andrew’s twin sons, Luke and Oliver, will share a Suzuki Swift on the event whereby one of the senior officials in charge of running the rally is Mark and Andrew’s sister, Nicky.

Other interesting cars include the Subaru Legacy of Bob Dennis from Bishop Auckland, John Nicholson and Chris Rock in their historic-specification Austin Minis, Darren Wilson’s Ford Escort Cosworth and Phil Bruce’s Ford Ka.

Admission costs £15 per person with accompanied children aged 15 and under admitted free. Gates open at 8am, with the first car starting stage one at 9am.