County Durham rally driver Stephen Petch Junior overcame treacherous snowy conditions, a high speed spin and a sticking throttle on last weekends Border Counties Rally to finish second in class in his SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai Accent World Rally Car.
Stephen, who is contesting the full Pirelli National Gravel Rally Championship this year, with Michael Wilkinson alongside him, had a cautious run through the opening stage, Wauchope, but still relatively happy with 11th fastest. Whilst Kielder has a reputation for being tricky, stage 2, Ogre Hill, was made all the more difficult by a snow blizzard shortly before the stage began. Despite this young Petch was fifth fastest in class through the 7 miler and headed to first service ninth overall but was just happy to still be going.
The next trio of stages were covered in a light dusting of snow, making the grip levels extremely inconsistent. And Stephen wasn’t helped by a sticking throttle which hampered his efforts to slow the car down for chicanes and corners. A spin in Stage 5, Pope’s Hill, saw the young crew loose precious time as the hot engine refused to fire up. Roughly 30 seconds were lost before they eventually got going again, but keeping a cool head, Stephen continued at his own pace. More time was lost with a stall at a very tight chicane on the final stage of the rally and these two incidents might surely have cost the pair the class win, as they gave best to Julian Reynolds by a mere 21 seconds at the end of the 60 stage mile rally. However both Stephen and Michael were more than happy to survive Kielder once more, and collect some useful points along the way.
Stephen said: “Stage one was pure carnage. There were cars off in ditches everywhere. And then it began snowing. The sticking throttle made life interesting but despite the problems we had fun and got back to Jedburgh unscathed and with a decent haul of points. We were also pleased to be so close to the leading pack in terms of stage times.”
Next up for the SG Petch Motorsport team is a trip across the water to the RBS Manx International Rally, the only tarmac round in the championship. Having never driven the Hyundai Accent WRC in anger on tarmac before Stephen is well aware of the massive learning curve ahead of him.