FOLLOWING the success of the 2022 Swift Signs and Shirts Winter Stages Rally held last November, Croft Circuit is planning to host the event again in 2024.

Rallying returned to the North Yorkshire circuit for the first time in three years and saw a near-capacity entry entertain a bumper crowd in the event organised jointly by Northallerton Automobile Club and Darlington and District Motor Club.

Plans were afoot for the event to return to Croft this November (2023), but there is a clash of dates with the bi-annual Roger Albert Clark Rally on the planned weekend, which would take away entries as well as marshals and other organisational resources.

As a result, discussions took place about Croft hosting a stage of the popular R.A.C. Rally, but geographical limitations on the provisional route made it unfeasible.

Therefore, it was agreed that the Winter Stages Rally would return in 2024 at a date to be determined, but likely to be November, and it is hoped that a high-quality entry and a sizeable crowd will once again support the event which was won in 2022 by local driver David Henderson, with wife Katie co-driving in their Ford Fiesta R5.

Meanwhile, on the back of last year’s successful return, the 2023 Riponian Stages Rally will take place this Sunday, with a top-quality entry set to battle it out in the Yorkshire forests.

Sponsored by KT Green, the Ripon Motor Sport Club-organised event will again welcome competitors in the 2023 Fuchs Lubricants RACRMC Historic Rally Championship, for which it will be the first round, as well as a number of regional championships.

The organisers will be using road closures pioneered in recent years to link smaller sections of forests on two of the three stages, the shortest of which is just over five miles, all run twice, giving approximately 43 stage miles.

The event will have scrutineering, documentation, and the now traditional finish at the Thirsk Rural Business Centre. However, to enable the event to be completed in reasonable time, the actual start will be at the Wombleton Airfield service area which will only be visited once after the first three stages.

Competitors then repeat the three stages before the finish back at Thirsk Auction Mart. Two-wheel drive cars will be first on the road in reverse order of performance, with four-wheel drive cars running in seeded order behind.

There is the enticing prospect of three of the country’s top historic drivers doing battle, with local ace Matt Robinson, from Ripon, up against arch-rival Ulsterman Marty McCormack in their powerful Ford Escort Mk 2s. The unique Fiat 131 Abarth of Nick Elliott will also be providing stiff opposition.

In the Interclub event, the competition should be just as intense as reigning BTRDA champion Elliot Payne, from Ripon, goes head-to-head with dad Charlie, who has won the event on ten occasions so far, in their respective Ford Fiestas.

They will be up against the unique Skoda Fabia Rally2 of County Durham driver Stephen Petch, who gives the ex-Andreas Mikkelsen World Championship car its debut.

Throw in the likes of Bedale’s Josh Cunningham (Ford Fiesta), the returning Alistair Ginley from York (Ford Fiesta) and the Hyundai i20R5 of Alan Carmichael in the capacity 120-car entry list, and the event should be quite some spectacle.

* Riponian Rally timings - Sunday February 12: 08.30 Start (Wombleton Airfield), 09.15 SS1 (Gale Rigg 1), 09.40 SS2 (Cropton 1), 10.44 SS3 (Wass Moor 1), 11.30 Service (Wombleton Airfield), 13.00 SS4 (Gale Rigg 2), 13.25 SS5 (Cropton 2), 15.09 SS6 (Wass Moor 2), 15.45 Finish (Thirsk Auction Mart)