Although not winning the event outright, Sean Devine took maximum points on the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship after a concerted effort on Rallye Sunseeker saw him finishing in third place overall.
Driving and ex-Mikko Hirvonen Subaru WRC S11, the Ulsterman and co-driver Francis Regan showed no ill effects from not competing on gravel since last September to claim a podium finish on the Bournemouth-based event.
Following Devine home in fourth place overall was the first of the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge drivers Dan Barry who overcame late problems along with co-driver Martin Brady, while Welshman Simon Hughes claimed third place ANCRO points on his debut on the event along with co-driver Patrick Walsh. They edged out the local crew of Anthony Willmington and co-driver Andrew White who were making a welcome return in their Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Swede Andreas Magnusson, West Country driver Nik Elsmore and Yorkshireman Charlie Payne were next up ahead of Alan Cookson, Owen Murphy and Alan Carmichael.
Following on from the drama of the opening night, which saw Geoff Underhill and Adrian Grinsted crash out in their Subaru, three of the main Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship contenders never saw the finish ramp either.
Defending champions Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery were blazing a trail at the front in their Hyundai Accent WRC when cambelt failure forced them out on SS6.
2004 Champion Steve Perez, along with co-driver Paul Spooner, retired his Ford Focus WRC07 on only the third stage of the day after heading into a ditch.
The third of the former champions to go out was Paul Bird and co-driver Ian Windress in the newly acquired Ford Focus WRC, when an electrical problem forced them out on SS10 when leading.
The rally was won by local driver Will Nicholls who took a debut victory on the event in their Subaru with former ANCRO Champions Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield second in their Subaru. However, neither were eligible for points due to not being registered in the Championship.
The battle now moves on to Kielder Forest in three weeks' time with the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally and with Devine unsure as to his participation, and the 'Big Three' looking to make amends after their disappointing start to the campaign.