In just over a week's time, no less than ninety crews will be lining up for the Cartersport Jack Frost Stages Rally to be held at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire and as well as quantity comes plenty of quality headed by last year's winners, Chris Wise and Tracey Taylor-West.

Indeed, the Pickhill pairing are on for a hat-trick having sampled victory in 2007 also and with their Autogas-sponsored MG Metro 6R4 benefiting from a recent rebuild, they will start as one of the favourites for victory on the Darlington & District Motor Club event.

However, there is the small matter of three other iconic 6R4s in the line up as well as a former national champion in a Subaru WRC so it is anyone's guess who will lift the victor's trophy come next Sunday evening.

Chasing Wise at number two is 2007 Christmas Stages winners, John Stone and Lee Carter from Blackburn who missed the recent Croft event over the festive period as their Legend Fires-sponsored 6R4 was undergoing a rebuild but they aim to get back to winning ways.

Having gained invaluable knowledge from his inaugural visit to Croft for the Specsavers event a couple of weeks ago, Mark Jasper and Don Whyatt will be hoping to improve on their fifth place last time out whereas Midlander John Marwood and co-driver David Fossey complete the four British Leyland legends which are still firm favourites with the fans.

But the one driver they will all be wary of is 2005 ANCRO Champion Paul Bird in his ex-Petter Solberg Subaru WRC S9. The Penrith chicken farmer has teamed up with Ian Windress from Northallerton as he makes a comeback for the 2009 season and after finishing runner-up on the Specsavers Christmas Stages last month, he hopes to go one better and add the Jack Frost title to his brace of Christmas Stages wins.

As ever, there is a healthy Scottish contingent for the event which is a qualifying round of the North of England Rally Championship 2009, 2009 SG Petch/ANECCC Stage Rally Championship, Borders Stage Rally Championship 2009 and ANCC Stage Rally Championship 2009.

The Subaru Imprezas of Bob Grant, Steven Hogg, Kev Dunn and David Hardie will be in the mix as they square off with asphalt specialists from south of the border including the Mitsubishis of Tommi Graham, Chris Marshall and Richard Cook as well as the Imprezas of Nick Stamper and local ace, John Gaskin.

And it's not just in the four-wheel drive class that an intense battle will rage, right down the order; the two-wheel drive cars will be well worth watching.

With nearly two dozen 1600cc cars in action, Tynesider Kev Monaghan will be aiming to repeat his recent Croft win in his Vauxhall Corsa but will face very stiff opposition in the shape of Chris Platt (Vauxhall Tigra) and Cumbrian Barry Lindsay (Peugeot 106).

In the two-litre class, John Deegan's Honda Civic should do battle with the Ford Escort of Davy Hughes but Alistair Hutchinson's LPG-powered Renault Clio RS and the Peugeot 206 of fellow local driver Mark Thompson cannot be ruled out.

John Cressey's BMW Mini will square off with the Ford Escort of Geoff Wilson in the over 2000cc class and in the 1400cc class, the father and daughter team of Derrick and Sarah Fawcett could spring a surprise in their recently upgraded Vauxhall Nova.

The Historic class is well represented with Brian Morris' venerable Datsun 240Z lining up against the Ford Escort of John Cockerill whereas the Porsche 911 of Peter Smith is hoping to get a run from the reserve list.

The first car starts at 09.05 on Sunday January 18 and the event comprises eight stages totalling around forty miles throughout the day, including at least one in total darkness before the prize presentation at Darlington Football Club.

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