Wales Rally GB, Swansea, 4/7th December 2008
Kick Energy rally driver Steve Perez had by no means an easy final day of Wales Rally GB but despite his problems, he secured an all-important top twenty placing on Britain's round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Along with Welsh co-driver Paul Spooner, the pair started out at dawn today in 21st place but on the opening two stages in Rheola and Port Talbot, the Ford Focus WRC 05 suffered from low oil pressure meaning that the former British National and Historic Champion had to back off as well in order to preserve the car but still set 24th fastest times in both stages to move up to 19th place overall.
Nursing the car back to Swansea service whereby repairs were effected, Perez went into the penultimate stage of Rheola 2 hoping to charge further up the leaderboard but a puncture scuppered any chances, followed by a hefty collision with a bank, meaning he dropped a place to 20th overall.
However, the Chesterfield driver pulled out all the stops in the final 20km Port Talbot 2 stage to set 20th fastest time and in doing so, climbed up to 19th place overall after the tough three day event.
Steve Perez: "To just get to the finish is a major achievement given this is one of the toughest rallies I have ever done. The ice, snow and fog made the going treacherous so I'm doubly delighted to achieve a top twenty finish on a World Championship event with very few top name retirements. The problems today really cost us a place and 18th would have been fantastic but I'm pleased with 19th which is what we set out for. The car has been sideways more than it's been facing forward on this rally!"
Paul Spooner: "It was a difficult rally and well done to Steve for bringing the car home in 19th place. It reminded me of Rally GB in 1996 when it was very icy and snowed a lot then and a lot of people have been saying just how tough it has been this year. We gave the bank a fair old clout towards the end and I'm glad it didn't do too much damage but it's fantastic to get to the finish."
The rally was won in dramatic fashion by Frenchman Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) who overtook Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala on the very last stage to win by just 12.7 seconds after the three day event.
1 Sébastien LOEB (Citroen) 2:43:09.6
2 Jari-Matti LATVALA (Ford) 2:43:22.3
3 Dani SORDO (Citroen) 2:44:30.2
4 Petter SOLBERG (Subaru) 2:45:09.2
5 Per-Gunnar ANDERSSON (Suz) 2:47:13.7
6 François DUVAL (Ford) 2:48:17.4
7 Toni GARDEMEISTER (Suz) 2:48:34.6
8 Mikko HIRVONEN (Ford) 2:48:48.4
9 Matthew WILSON (Ford) 2:51:23.5
10 Barry Clark (Ford) 2:53:02.7
19 Steve PEREZ (Ford) 3:03:50.3
Photograph attached courtesy of Jakob Ebrey.