Defending champions Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery got the defence of their title underway in the best possible fashion with a sensational seventh victory on Rallye Sunseeker.

Driving the Hyundai Accent WRC the pair emerged 33.7 seconds ahead of the Peugeot Cosworth of Andrew Burton and co driver Robin Kellard, with former ANCRO champion Steve Perez and co driver Paul Spooner claiming third place a further 13 seconds back on the opening round of the 2010 MSA Gravel Rally Championship.

Dodd, from nearby Poole, overcame the disappointment of retiring on last year's event, and also the drenched Dorset forests this year, to run out a clear winner and apart from a couple of moments during the day his only problem was an errant warning light on the last stage.

"It's been a very difficult rally and the stages have been as wet as I've ever known them but to win this event for the seventh time is fantastic," Dodd said. "One mile from the end of the last stage the water temperature shot through the roof but it was not a problem in the end and to claim victory on my local event is a great start to the year."

Burton, who decided not to register for ANCRO points, brought his crowd-pleasing Peugeot Cosworth home in runner-up spot after Perez, the 2004 national champion, suffered a last stage spin which meant the Chesterfield driver had to settle for third place in his Ford Focus WRC07.

Towcester's Roger Duckworth and co driver Mark Broomfield had a trouble-free run to fourth place in their Subaru WRC, with Paul Bird, from Penrith, and co driver Kirsty Riddick in their Ford Focus WRC08 putting in a brave drive to finish fifth following the death of his mother last week.

Yorkshiremen Jonny Milner and Ian Windress brought their Toyota Corolla WRC home in sixth after a misfire slowed the former double British champion earlier on. Next up was Anthony Willmington, Dave Weston Jnr and Jonny Greer, but none of them were registered for points leaving Co Durham driver Stephen Petch and co driver John Richardson to claim sixth place ANCRO points following their tenth place finish in the Hyundai Accent WRC.

In the Viking Motorsport Ford Escort Challenge, Richard Lane and co driver
Frank Richer took the spoils and the Nissan Micra pairing of Ian Barrett and co driver Gavin Wright claimed victory in the 1400cc Cup.