RALLYING made a welcome return to Croft Circuit last weekend, where a huge crowd witnessed a superb battle for victory in the Swift Signs and Shirts Winter Stages Rally, and after eight stages, it was County Durham driver David Henderson who emerged victorious in his Ford Fiesta Rally 2.

Along with wife Katie on the notes, the Willington driver added to his previous Christmas Stages Rally victory back in 2001 by edging out the similar car of defending champions, Cumbrian driver Frank Bird and County Durham co-driver Jack Morton, by just nine seconds.

With mild temperatures but a wet track because of overnight rain, Henderson set the fastest time on the opening stage, but Bird clawed a second back on SS2 and then a further two seconds on the following test meaning they could not be separated after SS3.

With the track continuing to dry, Henderson upped the pace to lead by four seconds after SS4 going into the lunch halt whereby the gap increased to five seconds after SS5, but Bird set the fastest time by a second on SS6.

However, as darkness fell, Henderson stretched his lead on the final two stages to win by nine seconds.

Third up was Leeming driver Joe Cunningham with Scruton co-driver Josh Beer in their Ford Fiesta, who just edged out his uncle, Kevin Procter, by ten seconds in the Ford Fiesta he was sharing with Tom Woodburn.

Great Smeaton pair Paul and Jessica Swift finished sixth overall and first in class in their Ford Escort Mk2, while Thirsk’s Mick Johnson guided Paul Walker to 11th overall in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.

One place further back was the Durham duo of Ed Todd and Andy Brown who also took a class win in their Darrian T9, just ahead of Mickleton’s Alistair Hutchinson and Staindrop co-driver StJohn Dykes in their Renault Clio.

County Durham’s Barry Renwick and Steve Dargan took their Ford Escort to 20th overall and fifth in class, just five seconds and one place ahead of Spennymoor driver Stephen Sawley and co-driver Rob Johnson in a similar car.

Andy Fawcett from Witton Gilbert and co-driver Chris Purvis claimed 23rd overall and a class win in their Vauxhall Nova, just head of Northallerton’s Dave and Drew Bellerby in their Ford Escort.

Richmondshire brothers Mark and Andrew Constantine finished 25th overall and second in class in their Vauxhall Corsa with Tim Johnson from Welbury and co-driver Adam Burkill bringing their Honda Civic home in 27th and third in class.

The Bedale pairing of Mark Flintoft and Dave Johnstone brought their Ford Escort home in 29th overall and fifth in class, two places ahead of the County Durham pair of David Coatsworth and Chris Pattison in their MG ZR.

Wensleydale driver Andrew Foster and co-driver Chloe Percival took 32nd overall and fourth in class in their Vauxhall Corsa, just one place ahead of Guisborough’s Dave Hornbrook and co-driver Ann Forster in their Mitsubishi.

Terry Clarke from Stockton finished 36th overall and seventh in class in his Ford Escort with Richmond’s Andy Dockray and Saltburn co-driver Neil Colman ending up 39th overall and fifth in class in their Vauxhall Nova.

Northallerton’s Ben Sayer guided Leeds driver Dave Ellis to 40th overall and eighth in class in their Mini Cooper S with the Northallerton Ford Escort contingent of Andrew/Georgina Smith, Darren Grimston/Jake Harvey and Nigel Keen/Paul Atkinson finishing 46th, 47th and 48th overall, with respective class positions of tenth, 11th and 12th as just 17 seconds separated them.

Great Ayton driver Ian Horn and co-driver Bob Brown (Vauxhall Nova) got the better of Northallerton’s Larry Carter and co-driver Richard Ross (Peugeot 206) on the final stage to claim seventh in class as they finished 53rd and 54th respectively whilst Richmond twins, James and Oliver Constantine, finished 57th overall and tenth in class in their Suzuki Swift.

Thirsk duo Rob Herrington and Charlotte Wainwright took 58th overall and 16th in class in their Ford Escort, with Richmond pair Luke Constantine and Antony Coates ending up 60th overall and eighth in class in their MG3, six places ahead of brother Tom Constantine and Mickleton co-driver Tony Walker in a similar car.

Teesdale pair Andrew and Joe Hutchinson encountered problems in their Renault Clio but finished in 74th place overall but with a very low attrition rate of just 12 cars, five were from the region.

Toronto’s Bob Dennis suffered with electrical problems in the Ford Anglia he was sharing with Ron Roughead from the start whereas Saltburn’s Sam Colman got as far as SS3 in the Mazda she was sharing with Paul Sheard before they broke a driveshaft.

Barnard Castle’s Colin Butler and co-driver Jordan English went out on SS4 in their Renault with Northallerton’s Marc Fowler retiring the Suzuki Swift he was sharing with Harry Vaulkhard on SS6.

Hutton Rudby pair Martin Peters and Jason Leaf were cruelly denied on the final stage in their Citroen Saxo when the gearbox failed.