Mike Smith won the F3J contest before the SWC with an Aspire.
We need to understand that there is no one prefect design, not even a Pike Perfect
This is not directed at the top level pilots reading this, but to the rest of us.
As Keith notes, he often whips up bad on people with his Pike. Mike Smith does the same with his Aspire. Daryl Perkins seems to be able to do well with his Icon2. Joe Wurts beat everyone up at a contest with an EPP 2-meter Beater. And so on. Point being that after a certain point it is pilot skill and not aircraft design that makes the important difference.
As a guy who has honed his skills to be able to stay just outside the upper ranks of soaring talent I look for a plane that I can fly with confidence. I have sadly finally realized that it is my talent, or lack there of, with a transmitter and not the excellence of the aircraft design that has the greatest impact on my placement in contests.
So talk to the top guys, get their feedback on what they like about the plane they are flying and then decide what you think will work best for you in your price range. Then build it and fly the crap out of it. The constant search for the plane du jour is not going to get you into the winner's circle as much as having a solid design, that matches your skills by maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses.
Then go fly it. A lot.