HALESOWEN'S Neil Matthews took a double victory at last weekend's Nicky Grist Stages.

Not only did he win his class by a comfortable margin of one minute 23 seconds, he also netted the biggest prize in national rallying - the Ravenol Nicky Grist Challenge.

Partnered for the first time by Bridgnorth co-driver Jez Rogers, Matthews nearly threw any opportunity of success away with a third gear crash on the event's very first stage.

“There was a dust cloud left by the previous car still hanging just before a fast left hand bend, I thought I still had some straight road to brake on but I was proven wrong. We left the road on the right and hit a bank and tree stump which pitched the car onto two wheels and we were very lucky not to roll,” said the Quinton Motor Club driver.

The pair continued but the rear suspension was badly damaged and emergency repairs were carried out over the rest of the morning until a full repair could be completed at the lunchtime halt.

Following the full repair of the Bowyer powered Vauxhall Nova, Matthews stormed through the afternoon stages to reel in his fellow 1600cc competitors and take the class victory.

Matthews added: “We hadn’t had the best of mornings but it seemed to really come together on the afternoons stages. We knew we had clinched the class but the naming of the winner of the challenge was held off until the event presentation. I'm a clubman competitor and to win what I believe to be the biggest prize available during my rallying career feels great. I can now look to plan a full campaign for 2015, something which has never been financially viable for me previously."