by Geoff Mayes

Stephen Petch Junior overcame minor gearbox maladies and a time consuming spin to bag a solid haul of points when he finished fourth in class on the high speed Trackrod National Rally last weekend.

Petch Jr was returning to action after a summer break and, despite a short test in his SG Petch-run Hyundai Accent WRC prior to the rally, admitted that he was feeling rather rusty.

Considering he had not competed since the Swansea Bay Rally in July, fifth fastest through Housedale, the opening stage, was not bad. His Hyundai has recently had a 'paddle shift' gear change fitted and it took him some time to adapt to the new system.

A spin and the consequent stalling of the engine in Stage 2 proved pretty time consuming but when he slid into a chicane in Cropton and could not engage reverse, any hopes of a podium went out the window.

"We had to get some spectators to push us backwards as we could not get reverse," he recalled.

A minute was lost in this stage and dropped him down the pack. The young County Durham rally driver was able to fight back though and he eventually finished seventh overall and fourth in Class B13.

"I do love these forests, and the Accent always goes well here. It took some time to get used to the new paddle system," he added, "but once I get the hang of it I should be a fair bit quicker."

Stephen's father Steve, a former national champion, meanwhile made one of his rare returns to the drivers' seat, on board a Mitsubishi Evo 9, and was enjoying a good run all day long until transmission problems stopped him on the very last stage of the rally.

The SG Petch Rally Team will be back in action on the forthcoming Bulldog Rally next, the final round of the 2008 MSA Gravel Rally Championship and Petch Jr stands not only a good chance of claiming the junior title but is currently also in the thick of the fight for overall victory in class B13.

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