County Durham based Stephen Petch Junior continued his steep learning curve on board the SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai Accent World Rally Car when he brought the car home twelfth overall and third in class amongst the registered crews after 2 days of high speed rallying.
With no opportunity to test ahead of his first ever tarmac rally in the car Stephen opted for a cautious start but still picked up a puncture in the opening stage, dropping 10 seconds to the leaders. Playing around with the setup of the car to try and find the perfect balance saw Stephen on the fringes of the top 10 for most of the evening as he enjoyed his first experience of the car on through the high speed lanes, calling it a big go kart.
Saturday morning saw Stephen on the pace of defending champion Marcus Dodd but then, running through a notoriously tricky section in Stage 7 Stephen out braked himself on a sharp corner and slid off through a gate, which was fortunately open, and into a field. Although there was no damage to the car it cost him over 30 seconds as he struggled to engage reverse gear. A mis-fire later in the morning also cost time but a string of top 15 times showed a level of consistency as Stephen focused on bringing the car home in one piece.
“I really enjoyed this rally. I always seem to go well on the Manx as the stages suit my driving style and this year was no exception. We struggled with a lack of pre event testing and had to work on the setup as the rally progressed, but we were on the pace of Marcus which is encouraging. The car is great fun to drive on tarmac but I’m really glad it was a dry rally.”
After three rounds of the 2008 MSA Pirelli Gravel Rally Championship Stephen and co-driver Michael Wilkinson find themselves lying third in the Class B13 standings, behind only Marcus Dodd and Andy Burton… pretty impressive company.
The SG Petch Motorsport team will next be in action in two weeks time on the Jim Clark Rally. Stephen changes cars and will run as course car in a Production class Subaru Impreza whilst his father, Steve senior, will take to the wheel of the Hyundai Accent and contest the Jim Clark National Rally.
For more on the championship please visit www.gravelrally.co.uk.