Despite an enforced date change into the New Year, the Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally, which takes place at Croft Circuit, North Yorkshire on Saturday 2nd January 2010, has once again attracted a top quality entry.

Included in the entry list is a World Championship driver, a European Championship driver, a bright pink MG Maestro, a car with 'ice cream van' chimes and someone who, it is reckoned, is the actual 'Stig' on BBC TV's popular Top Gear show...!

With Northallerton Automobile Club once again assembling a capacity 95-car entry for the annual festive feast around the North's premier motorsports facility just south of Darlington, the emphasis is on quality as much as quantity as a number of international stars are set to do battle over the 40 miles of stages.

Heading the entry is last year's winner Kevin Procter from Leeming Bar who will be again at the wheel of his Subaru WRC. The multi-talented all-rounder won the last-ever Rallycross Superprix at Croft a couple of months ago in the same Ford Focus he has been contesting the European Rallycross Championship and along with fellow rallycrosser Dave Bellerby on the maps, the pair will be a tough act to beat.

Former National Champion Paul Bird from Penrith is the red hot favourite to take the victory in his latest factory version Ford Focus WRC08 in which he plans on contesting the FIA World Rally Championship in 2010. Kawasaki World Superbike Championship team owner Bird, one of the very few FIA Seeded drivers in the world, did the Spanish round earlier this year and arrives at Croft looking for a record-breaking third win since the event has been held at Croft and he will be co-driven by Scottish Champion Kirsty Riddick.

Hoping to add to their double victory on the Jack Frost Stages at Croft in both 2007 and 2008 will be Pickhill crew Chris Wise and Tracey Taylor-West whereby a Christmas Stages victory would look good on their CV in their recently rebuilt MG Metro 6R4 and Leeds brothers Phil and Mick Gallagher also will be in action in their iconic 6R4 in which they took victory at an event near York last weekend.

More famed for his precision driving and stunts at packed stadiums throughout the world and indeed his television appearances in adverts, films and on Top Gear, some of which have him rumoured to actually be 'The Stig', Darlington's Paul Swift will be at the wheel of the historic-specification Ford Escort Mk1 which he will share with co driver Andrew Lees.

Ayrshire driver Billy McLelland and co driver Helen Brown are expected to be in the mix in their Mitsubishi Lancer and other local drivers challenging for class honours will be Michael Glendinning from Newcastle (Ford Escort Mk2), Whitby's Nick Cook (Ford Escort Mk1), Keith Davison from Stockton (Darrian T90) and Richmond driver Mark Constantine (Vauxhall Corsa).

Pontefract driver Dave Hemingway will once again be entertaining crowds as he usually does the stages with his Ford Escort Mk2 playing 'ice cream van' chimes, but no such nonsense from fellow Yorkshiremen Chris Myers (Mitsubishi) and Martin Farrar (Subaru) who will be challenging for outright honours.

Some of the more unusual cars include front runner Alex Taylor in a Subaru Forrester, Alastair Hutchinson's LPG-powered Renault Clio, the Renault 5 Turbos of Alastair Brown and Tony Jameson-Allen and Martin Cockerill's lurid pink MG Maestro.

"We were disappointed to have to move from the traditional Christmas Bank Holiday date because of the High Court ruling but despite this, we have got our biggest ever entry for the Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally," enthused Clerk of the Course Ian Jackson. "To have the likes of top World Championship drivers is testament that people enjoy the event and the uncertainty of the weather is another factor. With this level of quality right the way down the field, it is a mouth-watering prospect and one that I think everyone is really looking forward to."

Other local drivers expected to do well on the event include West Rounton's Nigel Keen (Ford Escort), the Lotus Exiges of Catterick autograsser Martyn Tinker and Sinderby's Bill Bates as well as John Gaskin from Chop Gate in his Subaru.

Durham youngster Andrew Fawcett will make his debut in the Specsavers-sponsored Vauxhall Nova and Teesside brothers Paul and James Dolan will be in action in their Mitsubishis, as will Pickhill's Geoff Simpson in a latest Evo 10 version, and Brompton's Paul Atkinson is another to keep an eye on in his 1400cc Nova.

Following Procter in changing disciplines for the day are a number of other top British Rallycross drivers who are taking to the stages. Gosforth driver David Binks joins fellow Tynesiders Michael Boak, Phil Chicken and Brian Jukes whereas a trio of Northallerton drivers, Darren Grimston (Ford Escort), Jonathan Bean (BMW 325) and Larry Carter (Peugeot 206) have all been in rallycross action at Croft recently.

Utilising all of the tarmac roads around the popular North East venue, a massive crowd is once again expected as the first of the cars gets underway at 09.05 with the first of eight stages which will run into darkness.

Admission costs ?8.00 per adult with accompanied children under 15 admitted free and gates open at 8.00am. Entry lists costing 50p are available from the Scout Tent with all proceeds going directly to Northallerton Scouts.

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