Young County Durham based rally driver Stephen Petch Junior showed plenty of promise on last weeks Rallye Sunseeker but his strong run ultimately ended with minor engine problems.
Stephen, who was using a Kumho tyres shod SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai Accent World Rally Car on this event for the first time, began the rally with a spectacular run through the Winter Gardens on Friday night. Third fastest overall on his second run on this short spectator stage saw him enter Saturday morning lying 4th overall. However things immediately went wrong when he was caught out by the slippery conditions and overshot a junction before stalling whilst trying to engage reverse. Over forty seconds were lost before the rapid youngster finally got going again, with this time loss dropping him down to 39th overall
A spirited fight back saw Stephen, co-driven as always by Michael Wilkinson, set a string of top 6 overall stage times and by stage 11 he had clawed his way back up to tenth overall. However this was the end of the road as the water temperature was running too high and Stephen had no option but to retire, with a blown head gasket later identified as the culprit.
A frustrated Stephen said: “It is annoying that we were forced to retire at all, but at least our times showed that we were on the pace of the top runners. Next up is one of my favourites from the whole championship, the Border Counties. I have always gone well there and fingers crossed we can have a good clean run and get some points on the table.”
The 2008 Pirelli Gravel Rally Championship runs over 7 rounds and heads north to Jedburgh for the Border Counties Rally next.