Three-time British and national rally champion Steve Perez got back behind the wheel of his ex-Marcus Gronholm Kick Energy Drink Ford Focus WRC07 last weekend for the first time in many months to kick-start the preparations for his eighth attack on Sol Rally Barbados, the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international, which comes off on June 1 and 2.
With regular co-driver Paul Spooner, Perez finished fourth and WR1 class-winner in last Saturday’s Malcolm Wilson Rally, the second round of the REIS Get Connected BTRDA Rally Championship, which he won in 2010. He was a late entry at the weekend when it became clear that his Lancia Stratos, damaged in an accident on the recent Legend Rally Boucles de Spa in Belgium, could not be repaired in time for Sunday’s Mid-Wales historic stages.
Perez has finished fourth in Barbados four times and, interviewed post-event at the weekend, he reflected on achieving the same result in Cumbria.
“To finish just six seconds off a podium after not driving the car on gravel since this event last year isn’t too shabby, so I’m happy with my performance.
“We only decided to enter at the last minute, and I figured the time in the Focus would set me up well for Sol Rally Barbados later in the year. This has to be the strongest entry on a UK rally in 10 years so the competition was there for sure, and it was good that we were competitive all day, especially towards the end. I’m registered for the BTRDA series so I may decide to do some more rounds,” he said.
Perez wasn’t the only Barbados regular in Saturday’s line-up, which also included Sol Rally Barbados 12 winner Paul Bird, partnered in the Focus WRC08 by Carl Williamson, co-driver to historic class-winner Andrew Siddall in Sol Rally Barbados 11. Bird failed to add a record-equalling fourth Malcolm Wilson victory to his tally, however, finishing runner-up for the second consecutive year.
Despite his 2004 debut in Barbados being less than memorable – he retired early on day one following an accident in his ex-Hannu Mikkola Audi Quattro Sport – Perez is among the most vocal ambassadors for the Barbados Rally Club’s premier event. His four fourth places have come in three different ex-works Focus World Rally Cars: a WRC05 in 2006 and 2007 (also highest-placed European crew), an older WRC03 in Sol RB08, then the ex-Gronholm WRC07 last year.
Perez has been absent only once, in 2010, when he added the BTRDA Championship crown to his previous wins in the 2003 Armajaro British Historic Rally Championship (Porsche 911) and the 2004 ANCRO National Rally Championship (Focus WRC03). In 2011, he returned to his rallying roots by entering his Kick Energy Drink Porsche 911 RSR in Sol Rally Barbados, finishing 17th overall. (RB)††