Stephen Petch Junior was left feeling a little frustrated at the end of last years Severn Valley Rally when a variety of problems knocked him down the leaderboard, eventually finishing fifth in class.
Stephen and co-driver Michael Wilkinson were back in their SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai Accent following a stint as course car in a Group N Subaru recently. The pair were also back on gravel following a pair of tarmac rallies in the last three weeks. And Stephen was so glad to be back on his favoured surface that he opened his account with a sixth fastest stage time on the first stage of the Mid Wales based rally. Stage 2 saw the young County Durham based pilot still set a strong top 10 time despite a spin at a hairpin.
Calming down slightly saw Stephen, the reigning Mitsubishi Junior Champion, set some very strong times over the next few stages and by the mid way point was pleased to be lying seventh overall and only 3 seconds away from his nearest rival. But then gradually his rally began to fall apart. Not only was the 23 year old forced to slow down at incidents involving other cars, costing him precious seconds, but a damaged steering arm put him into a ditch for nearly a minute and dropped him down the order.
“The morning was really good, the car felt great and I had loads of confidence. But then this afternoon it all fell away. We had to slow down a lot at two different accidents only to get waved on at the last moment, so that cost us time. And then i hit a big rock in one stage which damaged our steering. Despite this we’ve been on the pace of Marcus Dodd, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
With four of the seven rallies now completed Stephen finds himself still third in class in the championship battle, but with dropped scores to be taken into account the young Northerner could yet spring a surprise.