Simon Mauger and co-driver Melanie Holmes were celebrating after the Bicester-based Major Motorsport’s new Ford Escort MK2 made a winning debut in the South Down Stages at Goodwood on Saturday.

And they did it in style, beating defending champion Paul King, in another MK2 Escort, by three seconds. Mauger last won the title in 2010.

Rain, hail, wind and a lack of grip made conditions tough to put them 22 seconds behind race leader Johnnie Ellis in the morning.

When the rain stopped midway through the day, Mauger and Holmes took the lead.

But in the rush to get the car out, spotlights hadn’t been fitted, which meant they had to compete with nothing but the Escort’s conventional headlamps.

But the crew put in another fast stage time to keep their lead, and played it safe on the last stage, to take the chequered flag from King.

“Special Stage nine was by far the worst conditions I have ever rallied in,” said Holmes.

“The whole circuit looked like a lake, we couldn’t distinguish wet track from deep puddles.”

Mauger added: “I was really pleased with how the day went. We were mainly here to set the car up, so to win was an unexpected bonus.

“The service crew were fantastic, and I can’t thank John Edwards enough for his input.”