Steve Perez and Paul Spooner claimed the honours on the penultimate round of the Pirelli National Gravel Rally Championship by winning the Trackrod National Rally, but all eyes will now be on the title battle, which goes to the final event in mid-October.

Top seeds Perez and Spooner took their Ford Focus WRC some 40.2secs clear of the Subaru Impreza WRC of Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield on the Yorkshire-based event to claim maximum points in the series for the first time this season.

"I've won and Yorkshire's been good to me!" Perez said, "It's great to take the victory and maximum points in the championship, but it's unfortunate under the circumstances. I feel very sorry for Marcus."

The winner's words were magnanimous as early leaders Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery, who took charge after stage two, suffered late bad luck - and a small setback to their championship hopes - when they retired on the final stage in Givendale after the engine blew on their Hyundai Accent WRC. Prior to that, the pair had managed to contain the pack despite struggling with a misfire.

Perez trailed Dodd by 30secs going into the final test, but the leader's problems on the 14-mile stage saw the Ford sweep to victory and add to his success on the Yorkshire-based North Humberside Rally earlier in the year.

"It was difficult in the narrow bits, and I was a bit too cautious early on, but it's great to take victory and maximum points," said Perez, who only recently returned from the Incas Rally in Peru, "It was unusual not to see any donkeys or llamas on the stages though....!"

Late entry Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh finished up third in their Subaru Impreza WRC after a trouble-free run, while North Yorkshire driver Charlie Payne and co-driver Craig Thorley claimed fourth in their Mitsubishi Lancer WRC.

Production Cup leader Nik Elsmore and navigator Craig Drew claimed the spoils in the production category, as well as winning class N4, in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 as they finished fifth overall, 14secs ahead of the similar machine of Tony Thompson and Jon Dunning, who survived a full spin in stage eight.

Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson were seventh in their Hyundai Accent WRC after having a bit of trouble in stage three when they had no reverse and lost time at a chicane, and were followed in the results by the Subaru Impreza WRC of Alan Cookson and Julian Wilkinson, and Michael and David Curtis in their Mitsubishi Evo 5. Ian Tippett and Andy Rowe rounded out the top ten in their Evo 6.

Andrew Coley and Dan Pearce took the honours in the Two-Wheel Drive Challenge after a problem-free run, but there was disappointment for, among others, Dodd's father Harry and co-driver Richard Skinner, who bowed out after stage two with a mechanical problem on their Hyundai Accent WRC.

The result means the championship remains in the balance heading into the final round, the Bulldog Rally, on Saturday 18 October, with the absent Jon Ingram - who withdrew from the Trackrod event following the injury his wife suffered in serious horse riding accident last weekend - leading Dodd by five points on dropped scores.

If Ingram contests the final event, he must finish no lower than second if Dodd wins, setting up a grandstand finish. Reynolds sits third overall on adjusted scores, nine adrift of Dodd, with Richard Cathcart, Duckworth and Elsmore completing the top six.



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