Following on from victory last time out on the Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Rally, former champion Steve Perez and co-driver Paul Spooner stormed to a dominant victory on the penultimate round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship by winning every stage of the Sixty & Worcestershire National Rally today.
As part of the Ludlow-based Woodpecker Rally, which was making a welcome debut in the ANCRO-organised series, the Ford Focus WRC crew came home well ahead of their nearest rivals Nik Elsmore and co-driver Craig Drew after a dominant display in and around the famous Welsh borders.
From the very first stage Perez set the pace in the ex-Marcus Gronholm Kick Energy-backed car, stopping the clock three seconds ahead of his nearest rivals and from then on, he built on his lead to win by a mammoth two minutes and eight seconds.
Although the title had already been decided with Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery claiming a third successive crown in their Hyundai Accent WRC in Swansea, Perez's victory moved him and Spooner into a comfortable second place in the standings and also clinched him two class awards for good measure.
With no round of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge on the event, two crews failed to add to their points tallies, namely Daniel Barry/Martin Brady and Simon Hughes/Craig Parry but with their best result of the season, Elsmore and Drew moved into joint fourth place going into the final round of the series with the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire in three weeks time.
After two non-finishes, Alan Cookson and Julian Wilkinson claimed their first ANCRO podium finish of the season in what is probably their swansong event in their venerable Subaru WRC nicknamed 'Daisy' and in doing so, climbed to seventh overall in the standings and with it, runner-up spot in Class 9.
The Tonypandy pairing of Trev Baynham and Anthony Bailey were hoping for a third maximum score in Class 8 in their Ford Escort and with it an unassailable lead in the Mintex Two Wheel Drive Challenge but their day ended on the final stage with a broken driveshaft on their Ford Escort, the same fate which also befell Trevor Martin and Ray Cleghorn who retired their Subaru Impreza at first service.
Former ANCRO champions Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield were in contention when they experienced engine management system problems, which caused the engine to cut out continuously, and as a result they dropped nearly eleven minutes to the leaders to eventually finish in eighth overall.
1. Steve Perez
Ford Focus WRC 56m 53s
2. Nik Elsmore
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 59m 01s
3. Alan Cookson
Subaru Impreza WRC 1h 00m 30s
4. Harry Dodd
Hyundai Accent WRC 1h 04m 32s
5. Steve Blunt
Subaru Impreza 1h 07m 02s
6. Rob Archer
Ford Escort RS 1800 1h 07m 19s
7. Kit Leigh
Ford Fiesta ST 1h 09m 01s
8. Roger Duckworth
Subaru Impreza WRC 1h 10m 38s