Perez Duo Set the Pace on R.A.C. Rally
Chesterfield motorsport duo father and son, Steve and Seb Perez, took the Welsh and Scottish Forests by storm as they attacked the grit gruelling Roger Albert Clark Rally (R.A.C. Rally) just over a week ago.
The rally that recreated The famous RAC Rallies of the 1970’s has been followed by the Perez family over the years, the rally dates back to 2004 and named in honour of the famous World Rally Championship (WRC) driver who won the championship back in 1976.
Competitors were limited to vehicles released prior to 1982, and traces a route used by the Lombard RAC Rally of its time and what inspired Perez senior to build the rare and ever popular Amigos Tequila Flavoured Beer sponsored Lancia Stratos HF seen on this rally before and used for many years on European Historic Rally Championship events. In the passenger seat with Steve was new co-driver John Millington as his usual navigator Paul Spooner was nursing an injury.
18 year old Son Seb with co-driver Alex Lee was competing in a classic Mk2 Ford Escort rally car as seen on events from the 1970’s again sponsored by dads Chesterfield’s Global Brands drinks business.
Rallying is not new to the family with Dad Steve being a championship driver and Son Seb being a Junior Rally Champion as well as a proven race circuit contender too.
With a start line of over 90 cars the Father and Son team of two cars took on a challenge of four days, 30 special stages and nearly 300 competition miles not without adventure and misfortune.
The rally started for its first two short stages at the famous Shelsley Walsh hill climb course in Worcestershire where Father and Son should have been re-named “cat and mouse” chasing each other over the stages with only one second separating them at one stage and Seb just piping Dad to the post.
It was full steam ahead for them both after as they went into the thick of it and into the slippery Welsh Forests, first up was Radnor 1 a classic rally stage from the 70’s and 80’s and still used on World Rally Championships and 13.61 miles of gravel forest tracks.
By the end of the tight, twisty and treacherous stage Seb was flying finishing 18th fastest tackling gravel stages only for the second time in anger in the last three weeks leaving Dad 18 places behind in 36th.
The tables had turned as both went into the service area at Epynt after tacking SS4 Gwibidog where Steve made up 19 places on the stage to finish it in 17th leaving Seb limp back to finish stage in 28th.
Seb was still in a good place, he maintained his rally lead over Steve in 18th overall and Perez senior in 31st place
To end the first day Epynt Forest was next up and the re-run through SS6 Radnor 2 was cancelled due to marshalling issues, the Stratos of Steve’s was suffering from a misfiring engine and limped back to the overnight halt in Carlisle leaving him in 29th overall and Seb in a fantastic day in 13th place.
Day two saw a change in climate much colder and frosty weather met the drivers as they entered Scotland and had 10 stages to tackle during the day and much more demanding conditions to cope with.
They tackled tricky forest stages in Sheperdshield, Whitehill, Roughside Orge Hill and Harwood all being repeated for a second run later during the day as well with two service areas as well.
The Walton based rally team of Dansport keeping the cars in good order.
The stages were packed with spectators to get a glimpse of the Perez duo and waiting for the thundering sound heard miles away in the forests of Steve’s Lancia Stratos to flash past them, a first in car rarity and enjoyment for them and the first time it had competed on British rally soil for almost 3 years.
As the day progressed the drama unfolded as both drivers went along, the game of “catch me if you can” still continued with Seb still progressing further up the field, by early afternoon the Stratos of Steve’s was in 22nd place at the end of the re-run through Sheperdshield 2
Disaster struck on stage 11 Whitehill when the engine blew up on the Escort of Perez Junior just as a good battle for second in class was forming and such a disappointment as he was 13th overall in the rally.
Up until then he had driven the drive of his life and was impressing spectators and other competitors alike, such as the famous Jimmy McRae, father to the late Colin McRae.
By the end of day 2 Steve Perez finished 18th place.
The Team at Dansport tried their hardest to get the car going to keep Perez and Lee in the Super Rally classification with an engine change to find a part not fitting correctly. All was not lost for Seb he borrowed the Escort MK2 belonging to Geoff Bell to compete in the smaller Clubman’s Rally that took place at the same time during the last two days
The Perez duo now were competing in two different rallies as such but over the same ground.
Day 3 saw 9 more demanding special stages for Perez senior to tackle and who knew what would happen. Greskine, Windyhill, Greskine, Twiglees, Castle Ore were all on the cards with some being re-run twice,
By mid morning service at Lockerbie after completing Windyhill 2 Steve Perez was in 16 place in the rally but not without its problems, the Stratos had suffered some punctures during the morning stages and also the car had lost 2nd gear for some time and Steve Perez fighting to keep the car on the road. At one stage he lost 35 places but the stage after making up 54 places and the going was tough.
By the end of Castle Ore 2 Steve had finished the stage in 15th place and 12th overall in the rally.
Still suffering with gear problems Day four saw 5 stages ahead of Perez and Millington before the Kielder Waterfront finish.
By about midway and Falstone Forest Perez was 16th out of the stage and 20th overall, a re-run of the stage early afternoon saw Steve having to stop after another puncture struck the Stratos and do a tyre change resulting in them loosing places on the final part of the event dropping from 9th on stage to finish the rally with a top 20 place of 18th overall.
Seb had a busy last two days competing on the Clubman Rally after his second day drama and retiring from the main rally, all was not lost he won the Clubman Rally setting 7 fastest times on the stages and getting used to a different car
After the gruelling four days the duo were praised for their determination to finish such a demanding rally, the Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez was also given its place as number one for its rarity and spectator enjoyment.
Steve Perez said ” We both made it, it was a long tough rally over 1000 miles and 300 stage miles , I had an incredible 6 punctures and changing the wheel on that last stage lost us our top ten place” He added ” we are happy to have finished this long and tough rally, much of the first two days being beaten by my 18 year old son who unfortunately retired on Day two”
Steve’s son Seb commented “it was unfortunate we had to retire on Day two with a blown engine but was given the chance to compete in the Clubman’s event after borrowing a car from Graham Bell, it was a learning curve but managed to set 7 fastest times” He added “we owe a big thank you to the help of Dansport for keeping our cars going to the end”
Editorial by Paul Horton
Images by Mark Deamer Photography