Former Scottish Rally Champion Barry Johnson has won the Willingham's Recovery North Humberside Forest Rally in his Subaru Impreza. Co-driven by Stewart Merry, Johnson trailed Charlie Payne (Hyundai Accent WRC) by a handful of seconds with two stages to go but pulled out all the stops to win by just three seconds after 45 miles of competition.
With their Ford Focus WRC restored to full health after its roll on the Malcolm Wilson Rally three weeks ago, Steve Perez/Neil Dashfield also finished ahead of Payne/Craig Thorley to take the runners-up spot.
The North Humberside was the third round of the Dunlop Gold Star Rally Championship and fourth place was more than enough for series leader Graham Middleton to retain his position at the top of the points table. On an event that saw first and sixth places separated by a mere 15 seconds, Middleton's Hyundai finished on identical time penalties to the Mitsubishi Lancer of Ryan Champion, with the tie-break going to the former who put up a quicker time on the opening stage at Oliver's Mount.
The final top six place went to John Perrott in another Mitsubishi Lancer, while mention must be made of 17-year old Matthew Wilson, son of Ford World Rally Team Manager Malcolm, who was 7th on only his second outing in a Ford Focus WRC. Winner of the North Humberside on no less than four previous occasions, Warren Philliskirk, could manage no better than 9th place after his Metro 6R4 was plagued with gearbox problem throughout the day.
The Group N "production" category went to Alistair Ginley in his Mitsubishi Lancer, ahead of the Subaru Impreza of Gary Cooper and another Lancer driven by Charlie Babb.
The Dunlop Silver Star Championship, catering purely for two-wheel drive non turbo-charged cars, featured a fantastic battle between the Ford Escorts of Philip Squires, Adrian Struthers and Robin Bradbury. The three drivers were neck-and-neck throughout the event and finished in the same order, with Squires and Struthers also needing a tie-break to separate them at the end.
While rear-wheel drive cars currently rule the roost in the Silver Star Championship, as time goes on front-wheel drive is making more of an impact in the category. For much of the day, Stuart Jones was leading in his Proton Satria but a broken driveshaft during the afternoon put paid to his efforts, leaving the Renault Clio of Gareth Jones to uphold FWD honours, finishing four seconds behind Robin Bradbury.
For the first half of the rally, the Silkolene 1400 Championship runners were being given a virtuoso display by Ian Evans in his Suzuki Ignis. However, a lead of more than half a minute came to nought after an accident on the penultimate stage, leaving Malcolm Hague to take top honours in his Ford Escort, with Neil Weaver's Vauxhall Nova next up.
The organisers of the event, North Humberside Motor Club Ltd, had received an almost full entry of 180 cars, of which 25% failed to make it back to the finish. However, of that number, only one of the Top 20 starters was forced into retirement - Martyn Harrison, whose Metro 6R4 was leading the rally after the opening stage at Oliver's Mount, suffered the proverbial "early bath" when a driveshaft broke later in the morning.
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Last Modified: 29 March 2004