Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird got his 2014 REIS BTRDA Rally Championship campaign underway with a battling second place in the wet and windy Forest of Dean on today's Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally.
Fresh from last weekend's victory on the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally, the 2005 National Champion was back in action in the woods for the first time in three months and competing for only the second time on the Chepstow based event.
Along with Welsh co driver Aled Davies in the Pirelli-shod, FBP, Fuchs Titan, Rapid Solicitors and Mac Tools-backed Ford Focus WRC07, the pair were on the pace from the off but having to avoid the stranded Stephen Petch cost them vital time on SS1and after the following stage, Bird held third place behind Scottish Ford Focus WRC drivers David Bogie and Euan Thorburn.
Thorburn then encountered problems leaving the battle for the victory between multiple Scottish and former British champion Bogie and Langwathby driver Bird over the final few stages.
Although matching Bogie for the fastest time on the Yorkley stage, the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss couldn't find a way past so sensibly decided to settle for runner-up spot in the tricky conditions, just over a minute down on Bogie, meaning he goes into his home event, the Malcolm Wilson Rally on March 8th brimful of confidence.
Bird has won the Cumbrian event on three occasions (2004, 2006 and 2007) and has come so close to adding a fourth on a number of occasions only to suffer bad luck. One more would put him level with the record fellow Cumbrian Bill Dobie set over 30 years ago so with the added incentive of maximum BTRDA points on offer, it could provide the incentive needed.
Paul Bird: "I'm well pleased with that result and it's got our championship off to a great start. The conditions were very difficult but given all the problems they have been having down here, the fact that the organisers got the rally on was fantastic. It's been a few months since I drove on gravel but I feel I'm driving well now, and the extra training I'm doing is helping. David is a quality act as his record proves and we had no answer to him today so when we realised we couldn't beat him, we experimented with some settings on the car including with the tyres, which didn't really work out. It's only the second proper time on gravel in the past year so I'm hoping it will be a different story when we arrive in the Lake District next month."
1 David Bogie/Kevin Rae - Ford Focus WRC - 42m: 59s
2 Paul Bird/Aled Davies - Ford Focus 07 WRC - 44m:01s
3 Luke Francis/John H Roberts - Mitsubishi EVO 9 - 45m:29s
4 Ollie Mellors/Alex Lee - Proton Satria - 46m:14s
5 Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy - Mitsubishi EVO 9 - 46m:22s
6 Roland Llewellin/Jamie Edwards - Mitsubishi EVO 9 - 47m:23s
7 Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis - Ford Escort MK2 - 47m:40s
8 Jim McNeil/Tom Hughes - Subaru Impreza - 47m:50s
9 Rob Smith/Ross Weir - Subaru Impreza - 47m:50s
10 Paul Davy/Roger Allan - Subaru Impreza - 48m:19s
Image courtesy of James Ward (Chicane Media www.facebook.com/ChicaneMedia) and Kevin Money (on behalf of Rally Gallery): Paul Bird and Aled Davies on their way to second place in today's Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally.