Painful defeat for Petch in Somerset

DIRT TRAIL: Stephen Petch in action in the Betta Somerset Stages Rally, where he was pipped for first place – Picture: RallySport media

DIRT TRAIL: Stephen Petch in action in the Betta Somerset Stages Rally, where he was pipped for first place – Picture: RallySport media

First published in Sport

HAMSTERLEY rally driver Stephen Petch and his Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress just missed out on victory last weekend when they had to settle for runnerup spot on the Betta Somerset Stages Rally, but it couldn’t have been much closer.

The duo were once again in action in the SGP Motorsport Ford Focus and determined to avenge losing out in the final round last year and especially after retirement on the opening round this season.

Following on a podium placing at last month’s Malcolm Wilson Rally, the pair were hoping for a good run on round three but lost a little time on the opening two stages up Porlock Toll Road, as they didn’t realise the significance at the time.

Once in the forests around Minehead, the pair upped their pace and by the half-way point were holding third – just 24 seconds off the rally and championship leader Paul Bird. Petch continued to push through the second half of the 45-stage-mile event as he closed in on second-placed Steve Perez after nine of the 12 stages.

Bird retired on SS10, meaning a battle for the lead between Perez and Petch, who were separated by just seven seconds going into the final two tests. After SS11, Petch had narrowed the gap to four seconds despite an overshoot.

All eyes were on the stopwatches as cars finished the last stage and remarkably, Petch had taken the four seconds out of Perez on the final stage, meaning the pair had identical times.

However, such are the rules that in the event of a tie, the driver with the fastest time on the opening stage gets the advantage and with Perez being faster of the two on the tarmac on SS1, he was handed the victory with a disappointed Petch having to settle for second place.

Despite his pain, Petch moved up to fifth in the title race and given most of the leading drivers have already dropped scores, it’s still very much to play for going into the next round in Wales with the Plains Rally next month.

Also keeping his championship aspirations alive was double BTRDA Silver Star champion Matt Robinson, from Ripon, who along with co-driver Sam Collis took a fine 11th overall in their Ford Escort Mk2. The class victory also ensured the pair moved up to second place overall in the Gold Star series and continue to lead the Silver Star despite not claiming maximum points when they were pipped by Callum Black’s Citroen DS3.

In keeping with the local connection, although living in the Midlands nowadays, Callum’s father, Steve, was originally from Northallerton and one of the leading road rally drivers in the 1970s and 1980s.

SCORTON racing driver Max Coates is set to race at rounds three and four of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Donington Park this weekend where the Ginetta GT Supercup race winner will drive the Porsche guest car for Parr Motorsport.

After ten months out, the drive is a welcome return for the North Yorkshire driver who won in all three encounters last time out at Donington Park in 2012.

“I can’t wait to get back out again and can’t thank Porsche Cars GB enough for the opportunity,” said an ecstatic Coates.

“The Porsches are stunning cars and from talking to some of the current drivers they’re as good to drive as they are to look at.”

At the season’s opening rounds, Ben Barker got the Parr Motorsport guest drive car off to a winning start with a scintillating double victory meaning Coates is hopeful that he can have another successful weekend at the Derbyshire circuit.

Qualifying and the opening race takes place tomorrow, and on Sunday at 1.35pm the Porsche Carrera Cup GB race will be televised live on ITV4.

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