Wales Rally GB, Swansea, 4/7th December 2008
Kick Energy rally driver Steve Perez defied the treacherous conditions of ice and snow to end the first leg of Wales Rally GB in an impressive 23rd place overall after a day of drama on the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
After last night's ceremonial start in Cardiff, the Chesterfield businessman along with Welsh co driver Paul Spooner were greeted with freezing conditions as they headed out in the Number 23 Ford Focus WRC for the opening stage in Hafren.
However, such were the conditions that despite shortening the stage considerably, officials took the decision to cancel the stage meaning the action started in earnest in Sweet Lamb 1 where Perez cautiously recorded 37th fastest time over the 4.28 kilometres.
In the 18.3km Myherin 1 test, Perez posted 28th fastest time to bump himself up to 29th and with the second Hafren stage also cancelled, it was on Sweet Lamb 2 that the former National Rally and British Historic Champion attacked. There, he set 20th fastest time which he followed with 21st fastest on the second run through Myherin which saw him climb another six places on the overall leaderboard as the cars headed back to Swansea Service.
With two stages in darkness around Walters Arena, where on the second of the two stages, Perez set 21st fastest time overall, but dropped some time late on which meant that at the overnight halt, Steve and Paul were just eight seconds off the driver in 20th place, Mirco Baldacci. Just one place and three seconds behind the pair lies fellow Stobart VK Ford team mate, Valentino Rossi, whereby the eight times World Champion is sampling Rally GB for a second time.
"It was very difficult what with the ice, snow and fog but that's what rallying is all about, especially with this event. If it was up to me, I'd run the cars through the stages without any problems as that's how it used to be. I feel sorry for all the marshals and spectators who missed a lot of the action but safety must come first. It's so close with the times, just a small loss of time can drop you lots of places but hopefully, we can push on tomorrow. I need to build that gap over Valentino as he's going well, if only to make sure that people come and talk to me in my car, not keep going to the one behind! This is a luxury driving this car in these conditions; you want to try it in my Lancia Stratos!"
Tomorrow sees the crews leave at dawn for a run around the mid and South Wales stages of Resolfen, Crychan and Halfway before the spectator superspecial at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium tomorrow evening.
1 Jari-Matti LATVALA (Ford) 31:20.5
2 Sébastien LOEB (Citroen) 31:33.4
3 Per-Gunnar ANDERSSON (Suz) 31:43.0
4 Mads ØSTBERG (Subaru) 31:44.5
5 Petter SOLBERG (Subaru) 31:47.9
6 Dani SORDO (Citroen) 31:52.7
7 François DUVAL (Ford) 32:12.5
8 Sébastien OGIER (Citroen) 32:15.3
9 Henning SOLBERG (Ford) 32:25.2
10 Matthew WILSON (Ford) 32:53.5
23 Steve PEREZ (Ford) 34:45.5
Photographs attached courtesy of Jakob Ebrey.