Daniel Gonzalez has enjoyed his first ever rally win after claiming top honours in the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) over the weekend.
Behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20N alongside regular co-driver Caleb Ash, Gonzalez ended up claiming a comfortable victory of more than one minute over WARC title contender, Ben Searcy.
In what was an almost perfect performance, Gonzalez won all but one stage during the Karri Rally, which included a run of five stage wins, losing only to Searcy on the penultimate stage by 11 seconds.
However, that was just a minor blip in what was one of his best outings yet.
It was a dream start for Gonzalez, who edged out the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO of Searcy and Ben Nicoli on the opening stage, with only half a second separating the two.
Gonzalez produced another strong effort on the next stage, while a mishap from Searcy saw him tumble down the order after finishing the stage out of the top 10.
In a replica of the stage two, Gonzalez made it three from three on a challenging third stage, beating Craig Rando by seven seconds – Searcy’s hopes of winning the event taking another hit after he again finished 30 seconds behind the leader.
Over the next two shortened special MotoX stages, Gonzalez continued to produce stage wins, making it five in a row and extending his lead over Rando by 26 seconds.
A dramatic sixth stage saw Rando and Scott Beckwith retire from the event, giving second place back to Searcy and Nicoli, who closed in on Gonzalez’s lead by winning the stage.
But it would prove very little in the general scheme of things, as Gonzalez and Ash finished the event off with another stage win, proving too strong for Searcy and Nicoli.
In what was perfect preparation for this week’s RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship round, the Middle of Everywhere Rally Gippsland, Gonzalez was thrilled with his overall performance.
“It was a good feeling having the win but, really the goal was to get to the end to be honest,” Gonzalez said.
“The win came as a surprise, but we are slowly starting to find a bit more pace as we go forward and, with a bit more pace, the biggest thing for us is confidence. You can't be in a rally car without some level of confidence.
“The focus this particular weekend was to just get through the pace-note writing and to focus. It’s the first time I've really driven with my ears, and I needed those notes for the first time.
"Unfortunately I will not be able to make it time for shakedown ahead of the Gippsland Rally, making this state championship result even more important. In Victoria, we'll be a bit more comfortable in the car because we really got a glimpse of something different this weekend to see my ability to write and drive with our own notes."
While it turned out to be a comfortable victory for Gonzalez and Ash, the battle for the final podium position went right down to the wire as Jack Flanagan and Daniel Adams pipped Nic Box and Tammy Adams on the final stage.
Flanagan and Adams were as high as third place at the start of the rally, but an issue on stage three saw them drop to seventh on the standings.
For the rest of the rally, Flanagan had to play catch up, steering his Subaru WRX to a number of top five finishes and eventually grabbing third on the final stage.
While they may not have had come away with an outright podium, it was still a solid performance from Box and Adams, with the Nissan Silvia S13 pilots picked up the WA 2WD round win – comfortably beating Gary Mills and Mitch Gray by more than two minutes.
Click here for full results.
The next round of the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship will be the Safari Rally in Chidlow on 1 October.