When Kick Energy rally driver Steve Perez spun and lost a minute on the second stage of Saturday's Malcolm Wilson Rally, little did he expect to be crossing the finish line a few hours later as the winner having successfully defended the title he won last year.

Driving the Ford Focus 07 along with Welsh co driver Paul Spooner, Perez slid off on the treacherously icy Comb stage and knew from that point on any hopes of victory for a second successive year on the Cockermouth-based event were slim.

Despite that, the former British Historic and National Rally vhampion gamely battled on and as the crews headed for the infamous Grizedale tests near Coniston, Perez had clawed his way up to third place when on the penultimate stage, rally leader Paul Bird suffered a problem which forced him out leaving Perez to battle it out for the lead and courtesy of three stage wins in the final four tests, took a 17-second win.

The victory was Perez's second successive BTRDA Championship round win following his Wyedean victory last month and upon reaching the finish ramp in Cockermouth High Street, which less than four months ago was under eight feet of water, he paid tribute to the spirit of the town.

"This has got to be my most unexpected victory ever as after losing a minute this morning; I thought I had no chance of winning. But it just goes to show if you keep fighting, anything can happen and I'm delighted to retain my title," he said.

"If anything, it's even more special as everyone knows what the people of Cockermouth have been through just before Christmas so to have an event like the Malcolm Wilson Rally here, and to have the honour of winning it, really means a lot and I hope they can get back to normality pretty soon."

Perez's next outing is scheduled for the Bulldog International Rally of North Wales on Saturday 27 March where he plans to call his iconic Lancia Stratos into British Historic Rally Championship action.