Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird kept his hopes of victory in the 2014 REIS BTRDA Rally Series well and truly alive when he took a battling runner-up spot in today's Trackrod Forest Stages Rally.
In the dry and dusty conditions of the classic Yorkshire stages, the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss from Langwathby near Penrith was hoping to add to his victories on the Malcolm Wilson, Nicky Grist and Woodpecker rallies and in doing so, give himself the best possible chance of lifting the crown on next month's Cambrian Rally in Wales.
In their Rubis Petroleum, Cockspur Rum, Fuchs Titan Race, Mac Tools-backed and Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Ford Focus WRC07, Bird along with Welsh co-driver Aled Davies was making a rare appearance on the fast Yorkshire Moors stages around Pickering and his day didn't get off to a great start when he spun on the opening stage in Langdale.
Tweaking his ribs which he broke in his Manx accident earlier in the year in the process, the 2005 National Champion dropped more time on the second stage in Gale Rigg before starting his climb up the leaderboard by setting quickest time in Cropton to reduce the deficit to rally leader and title rival Steve Perez to 7.5 seconds.
Into the penultimate stage in Staindale and Bird pulled back a few more seconds and then one final push in Dalby saw him arrive back at the finish just 3.4 seconds short of victory meaning the title race will go right down to the wire with a 'winner-takes-all' scenario on next month's finale.
Paul Bird: "It's been close all day and I never really go well in these forests so second place is a great result. I jarred my ribs when we spun and I was in a lot of pain but that's not an excuse, we got quicker as the day went on and I won the last three stages which was encouraging. I'm looking forward to the Cambrian which should suit my style better, I just struggled to get going today, and it's a rally I've won before so that's the plan again and if we can do that, we'll be champions."
1 Steve Perez/Paul Spooner - Ford Focus - 0:41.08.0
2 Paul Bird/Aled Davies - Ford Focus 07 WRC +3.4
3 David Weston/Kirsty Riddick - Subaru Impreza WRC +25.4
4 Stephen Petch/Ian Windress - Ford Fiesta R5 +36.8
5 Charles Payne/Andrew Roughead - Ford Fiesta +1:14.2
6 Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy - Mitsubishi Evo N4 +1:58.4
Image courtesy of Marcus Andrews: Paul Bird and Aled Davies in action on the Trackrod Rally.