After recent class wins on the Cambrian Rally, Trackrod Rally and Wales Rally GB, triple British champion Steve Perez was well on course to end his season in the best possible fashion by claiming a fourth successive Historic class victory on the gruelling Roger Albert Clark Rally when he was forced to retire with two stages to go this afternoon.
Perez was holding 14th place overall and comfortably in command of his class when the Amigos Tequila-flavoured beer branded Lancia Stratos suffered a suspension failure following a puncture in the Wauchope stage within sight of the finish meaning his record of three consecutive finishes on the event, including an impressive eighth overall last year, came to an end.
A stalwart supporter of De Lacy Motor Club’s three-day event that recaptures the spirit of yesteryear’s Lombard RAC Rallies, Perez, from Chesterfield, was contesting the rally for the ninth year and along with Welsh co driver Paul Spooner, the tens of thousands of fans were out in force cheering them through the stages.
After the start, Friday evening’s blast through the fast open riggs of Dalby saw the iconic BTR-prepared Italian machine of 1974 vintage return to Pickering after four stages in 13th place overall out of the 70 starters and leading the class.
Saturday’s stages started in Gale Rigg before heading to the stately home of Duncombe Park where two very slippery spectator stages awaited crews and after negotiating the first run safely, Perez suffered a time consuming spin on the second stage which dropped him down to 16th overall, a position he maintained throughout the second loop.
From there it was onto a fog-shrouded Croft Circuit where the 2003 British Historic, 2004 National ANCRO and 2010 BTRDA champion really put on a show for the bumper crowd. Ninth fastest on the first all-tarmac stage, Perez scorched to fifth fastest time on the second run which elevated himself two places up the leaderboard going into the night time stages of Hamsterley and Pundershaw. Here, he consolidated his position but dropped a little time in the final test in darkest Kielder to arrive at the Carlisle overnight halt in 15th place.
The final day dawned wet and windy and with some of the toughest forests that northern England and southern Scotland could offer, Perez shot out of the blocks to set an amazing third fastest time in Glen Dhu which was followed by another supreme effort in Newcastleton, elevating himself up to 12th in the process.
The remainder of the morning wasn’t quite so good and Steve dropped some time in Florida and Riccarton but managed to claw his way back up the leaderboard by the first run through Craik, which he considerably improved on the second test, only to suffer the heartbreaking disappointment on the very next stage.
A disappointed Steve said: “It’s very disappointing to retire within sight of the finish, we had a puncture in the previous stage but had to drive on it for a while and ended up doing some damage to the suspension. We got a few miles into the next stage before the suspension broke and we had to park up. Ironically our Amigos team-mate Geoff Bell was parked up in exactly the same place! By the time we had effected repairs we were OTL and not able to continue. It was a bit of a difficult day today all round what with punctures and also on one stage the door catch broke meaning I had to hold the door closed while trying to drive which made life interesting (see picture attached). The car is all fixed now and ready for next weekend’s Killarney Rally where I hope to make up for the disappointment.”
Further information is available by following Steve Perez Rallying on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/steve.perezrallying and on Twitter@steveperezrallying. For further information on the company’s products, including Amigos beer, please visitwww.globalbrands.co.uk and the team’s official rally website iswww.steveperez.co.uk.
Pictures attached (courtesy of Marcus Andrews) Steve Perez and Paul Spooner in action on the Roger Albert Clark Rally. Further pictures available upon request.