13 months after last competing in his ex Marcus Gronholm Kick Energy Ford Focus WRC07 on the 2013 Malcolm Wilson Rally, triple British champion Steve Perez bounced back in the most sensational style by taking a dramatic victory on this weekend’s Betta Somerset Stages Rally.
Along with regular Welsh co-driver Paul Spooner, the pair have shifted their attention to the 2014 REIS BTRDA Rally Series following a change of plans and were hoping for a good run on their first appearance in the series in the Focus.
A steady start saw them second overall to series leader Paul Bird after the opening loop of stages as they got used to the power of the car again around the short and twisty stages. Perez, the 2010 BTRDA champion, was just nine seconds adrift of his great friend and rival Bird after SS5 but a mistake on SS6 saw them concede half a dozen seconds more as the rally headed for its second phase.
Perez continued to shadow Bird but when his rival hit trouble on SS10, he took over at the front with a narrow seven second lead over last season’s BTRDA runner-up Stephen Petch in his later version Ford Focus WRC.
An overshoot on the penultimate stage looked to have cost Perez victory only for him to learn Petch had done the same meaning the gap was down to four seconds going into the very last stage. Once more, Perez thought he had thrown away the victory when a faulty intercom dropped him more time but as the cars arrived back at the finish, both he and Petch were tied equal on time, they couldn’t be separated.
In such a situation, rules decree that the driver setting fastest time on the opening stage is declared the winner and with Perez stopping the clocks five seconds faster on the opening run up Porlock Toll Road, he lifted the winner’s laurels.
Steve said: “That was close, and I wonder when the last time a National Championship rally was decided in this way! We chose the wrong tyres for the two tarmac stages and from then on, we were playing catch up to Birdy. We held a steady pace all day and had resigned ourselves to finishing second when I saw him off the road on SS10. I slowed down to make sure all was OK but I didn’t realize just how much Stephen Petch was speeding up. With our problems on the last couple of stages I thought I’d blown it but when I heard we were level on time, I couldn’t believe it. Fair play and hard luck to both Stephen and Paul, but we’ll happily take the win as it was important to come back strong if we are to challenge for this title. To rub salt into Birdy’s wound, I still hold the record up Porlock too, I forgot to remind him about that!”
Steve’s next outing will be the Plains Rally which takes place on 17th May.
Further information is available by following Steve Perez Rallying on Facebook at www.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 is www.steveperez.co.uk.
Betta Somerset Stages Rally
1 Steve Perez/Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC – 42:28
2 Stephen Petch/Ian Windress – Ford Focus WRC – 42:28
3 David Weston/Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza WRC – 42:56
4 Luke Francis/John H Roberts – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 44:00
5 Tom Naughton/Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 44:25
6 Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 44:26
7 Martyn England/Dawn England – Mitsubishi Evo 10 – 45:23
8 Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 45:36
9 Roland Llewellin/Jamie Edwards – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 45:43
10 Callum Black/Paul Wakely – Citroen DS3 – 46:37
Picture attached (courtesy of Chris Huish RallySport Media) Steve Perez and Paul Spooner on their way to the a dramatic victory on the Betta Somerset Stages