County Durham rally driver Stephen Petch Junior overcame a catalogue of minor mishaps to take a class podium on last weekends Bulldog Rally, the final round of the 2008 Pirelli MSA National Gravel Rally Championship as he drove his SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai Accent World Rally Car to seventh overall and second in class B13 on the Oswestry based event.
The opening stage saw Stephen’s rhythm disrupted when he slowed to pass the stricken car of Mark Higgins, which was then followed by a small moment which dented his confidence, resulting in the 2007 Evo Challenge Junior Champion languishing down in fifteenth position overall at the end of that opening stage. With Stephen still adjusting to the new paddle shift gear change on his Hyundai he lost more time with a spin and stall on the second test. More time was haemorrhaged on the third stage when the brakes began to fade mid way through ‘Big Ray’. Clean runs on both stage four and five allowed Stephen to break into the top ten overall and despite losing hydraulic pressure in the final stage Stephen and co-driver Michael Wilkinson returned to Oswestry with seventh overall and second in class.
“This rally really sums up my year. Flashes of promise and lots of character building. On the whole I’m happy with how everything has gone, but am annoyed at myself for not getting my head into gear in the morning. We lost a lot of time because I made some silly mistakes. And then in the afternoon I struggled with smoke coming into the car, which was caused by something to do with the transmission.” said Stephen.
He added: “Still, we showed that he have the most reliable world rally car out there, as we finished more rallies than anyone above us in the standings… that has to count for something.”
In the overall championship standings, as a result of a strong run of reliability on his SG Petch Motorsport run Hyundai, which saw Stephen finish all but one of the rallies he contested in the series, the 24 year old takes third in class B13 in the series in his first year in the top class.
As of yet Stephen has not finalized his plans for 2009 but will be out in action next weekend when he appears at Croft for the Get Connected SG Petch Rallycross Superprix to run demonstration laps in his Hyundai. A week later he will be joined by his father on the Malton Forest Stages in North Yorkshire.