Chesterfield's Seb Perez impresses on World Rally debut in Spain

Chesterfield’s rally superstar Seb Perez is back on home soil after two successful weeks’ rally action in Spain, reports Paul Horton.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 5:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 5:53 pm
Seb Perez in action in Spain. Photo: Paul Horton Motorsport Photography.

The 22-year-old showcased his talent and years of motorsport experience in taking part in the FIA World Rally Championship on the Rally de Espana (14-17 Oct).

Perez, with his regular co-driver, Donegal’s Gary McElhinney, sealed a great finish on his debut WRC event with a top ten class win and 26th overall out of the 70 car entry list.

The pair started the rally partnership about five years ago and have gone from strength to strength and competed in the British Rally Championship as well as other events at home and in Europe.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Perez, the master of tarmac, was suited to the world event based in Salou, Catalunya, Spain in their #43 M Sport works sponsored WRC Team, WRC 3 Ford Fiesta Rally 2.

Over 17 special stages the dynamic duo of Perez and McElhinney tackled the very fast, twisty and smooth circuit-like asphalt roads that encouraged his usual tarmac rallying style of attacking driving and judicious corner cutting that’s made him the expert at shaving vital tenths off his times.

All the action started when Perez and McElhinney alongside reading the maps and pace notes gave the car a testing in the four runs of the Col de la Teixeta shakedown stage. They showed promise with some fast times that showed up some of the long established WRC crews. They were the ones to watch out for.

The pair were delighted in taking the Fiesta over the ceremonial start ramp the night before the action started.

They would complete 174.27 miles of competitive rallying and as they were waved off on the Friday morning they faced six long and gruelling stages.

SS1, Villaplana 1 was a long 20km twisty stage. Perez got on with the job to finish it in 45th out of the 68 cars that passed through. By the end of the second stage (La Granadella 1) he had made up a further 12 places.

The last four stages of day one saw the team keep on pushing, seeing them better on each stage and end the day back in Salou in 34th place overall.

Saturday morning welcomed the duo with a further seven special stages including some live TV appearances. SS7, Savalla 1 was first up of the day, a twisty 14.08km stage with breathtaking backdrops that meant no driver could afford to make mistakes. He thundered through to finish the other side in 30th spot.

By SS11, Quera-Les Pobles 2 he was in 28th place only to drop a place for the live TV stage of Montmill 2, his second showing to the world on live TV.

Before the finish of day two, they tackled the super special stage in Salou itself around the tight streets and seafront. A short 2.24km blast saw a phenomenal finish in 25th.

As the sun rose over Salou’s Port early Sunday morning, Perez and McElhinney were up and ready to finish the rally with four stages around the vicinity of the Salou finish line.

SS15, Riu de Canyes 1 saw Perez excel in front of live TV again completing the 16.35km stage in 11 mins 07 secs to take the flying finish in 25th place.

With two stages to go Perez went on the pace to retain his same place to finish a second run through Riu de Canyes 2.

With a ceremonial finish at the Port in Salou, the duo crossed in 26th place to finish their first WRC event, and ninth in WRC 3 Class.

The whole event was a great experience for them both and the week before saw them take on the 550 Challenge Rally on the island of Mallorca.

The M Sport Fiesta was faultless, as was its pilot and co-driver. They led the event from start to finish and were fastest on every stage.

Perez said after the WRC event: “It was a fantastic event. I really enjoyed it and it was great to see the pace of the up and coming WRC drivers to be. It was a pleasure to be part of it and a debut WRC.

"It was a real eye opener being part of it with the M Sport WRC team. It was an experience I wouldn’t have missed from the recce before to the finish. It was a real challenge but I enjoyed every minute of it. We got a great finish in ninth place in WRC 3 and 26th overall”.

Perez and McElhinney now look forward to being back on the British Rally Championship Cumbrian Rally this weekend.

They are also taking part in the 5 day Roger Clark Rally in November in an Escort MK2.