The most successful driver in the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire’s history Steve Bannister bids to rekindle memories of over three decade ago when he contests this year’s two-day event on September 28th/29th.
Malton potato farmer Bannister will be partnered again by former navigator Dave Oldfield, from Seamer, in a 1975 Ford Escort Mk2 strikingly similar to the one in which they drove to victory in 1984, 85 and 88.
The duo were the first to win the Trackrod three times and only former Mintex National Champion Chris Mellors and Ripon dairy magnet Charlie Payne have emulated Bannister’s achievement in the driving seat since.
But the veteran North-Yorkshireman has also tasted multiple success in the Trackrod National Rally (a highly competitive support to the main event for many years) before, more recently, dominating the two-day Trackrod Historic Cup – the final round of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Championship – which shares top billing with and runs alongside the Trackrod Forest Stages Rally throughout Saturday.
Bannister is bidding for a astonishing fourth successive victory in the Historic Cup, which begins in darkness on Friday with a 10.43-mile stage in Dalby forest.
He won alongside Kevin Rae in 2015 and Callum Atkinson in 2016 and 2017 but was almost resigned to just watching the rally this time around.
“None of the two or three regular navigators I’ve used over the past ten or 15 years could do the rally this year so I hadn’t entered,” explained Bannister, who remained close friends with Oldfield even after his co-driver had to retire for medical reasons.
“Dave’s a lot better now and so we went testing in Cropton (forest) last Thursday and afterwards, I said that went well so you’d better do the Trackrod with me now?!
“He agreed so after 30 years we are back together again!”
“It’s a really good entry this year and what has made it better is that they (the organisers) are running the smaller Category 1 and Category 2 cars at the front.
“That’s a great idea because they don’t cut up the tracks like the bigger, more powerful cars.
“When they were running at the back of the field, the road was so badly chewed up by the time they got there that they were saying we don’t want to do this because it damages the car.
“This way it encourages more of the smaller cars to enter.”
Bannister’s trademark white Escort with its red stripe down the centre of the roof and bonnet will give the smaller vehicles a five minute start before leading the more powerful group of favourites for overall victory off of the start ramp, along Filey Beach Road from around 7pm on Friday and into Dalby for the opening test.
The following morning the Trackrod Forest Stages Rally contestants, many chasing points in the final round of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series, will join in for the other five stages, covering another 45 miles of forest action.
Dalby and Cropton again provide the best spectator access including facilities like refreshments and toilets, with the famous Woodyard also carrying full commentary.
The 2018 edition of the Trackrod Rally, which has run almost continuously for over 40 years, also features as a round of numerous other national and regional title races.
Both the start and finish, from mid afternoon on Saturday, are completely free to onlookers, who are encouraged to use the special spectator areas in Dalby (Woodyard and Housedale [Saturday only]) and Cropton (Spiers House) – more details of which are on the rally website.