Former British National and Historic rally champion Steve Perez finally added the prestigious Wyedean Rally to his increasing list of successes when he took a hard fought victory on Saturday's event in the Forest of Dean.
Driving the Kick Energy-sponsored Ford Focus WRC07, along with co-driver Paul Spooner, the Chesterfield driver made up for the disappointment back in 2006 when he lost the rally by a mere three seconds, to take a 29-second victory on the opening round of the BTRDA rally championship.
Joint fastest on the opening stage, Perez and Spooner were never headed throughout the day although the battle for the lead was intense and in the first half of the event, only a handful of seconds separated Perez from the Ford Focus of Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank and local aces Nik Elsmore and Nige Gardner in their Mitsubishi.
After SS4, Perez's lead was just six seconds but a push on the second loop saw him increase his advantage significantly and after setting a consecutive fifth fastest stage time on SS5 in Speech House, Perez rolled off the gas ever so slightly on the final two tests to seal the win.
"I've been trying to win this rally for a long time so today is a special day," said Perez. "We were using the rally to test different tyres and it was very close between Hugh and I until he had a spin in SS5 and that allowed us a bit of a cushion going into the last two stages.
"This is a great start to the season and as I've registered for the BTRDA series, it also means I'm leading the championship."
Both Perez and Spooner will next be in action in just two weeks' time when they contest the opening round of the 2010 MSA Gravel Rally Championship which takes place with the Poole-based Rallye Sunseeker.
However, immediately after the finish, the ex-Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus was loaded up en-route
for Sweden whereby Perez flies out today [Sunday] to attend the ice driving school run by East African Safari Rally co-driver Staffan Parmander.