Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird returned to his fantastic start of season form by winning today's Nicky Grist Stages Rally and in doing so, thrust himself back into contention in the 2014 REIS BTRDA Rally Series
After a second place on the opening Wyedean Rally followed by a win on his local Malcolm Wilson Rally for a record-equalling fourth time, the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss from Langwathby near Penrith was hoping to bounce back after a run of bad luck had put paid to his chances on recent events.
With the best quality entry of the season so far, Bird and Welsh co driver Aled Davies started well with third fastest time on SS1 in their Rubis Petroleum, Cockspur Rum, Fuchs Titan Race and Mac Tools-backed, Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Ford Focus WRC07.
With very little experience in the classic mid-Welsh forestry stages, Bird upped the pace over the next three stages to head for the mid-point service in second place, just seven seconds down on leader David Weston Jr.
However, on the way back to the service area, the car suddenly stopped leaving Bird and Davies to attempt to solve the problem. They quickly rectified the problem with the ECU which allowed them to return to service before proper repairs could be sorted by the team.
Into the second loop of stages and Bird immediately reduced Weston's lead to a single second before hitting the front on SS6 to lead by two seconds. Weston pulled a second back on the penultimate stage meaning Bird's lead was just one second going into the final stage in the legendary Crychan forest.
With all eyes focussed on the stop clocks, Bird eventually arrived at the finish adding a further two seconds to his lead to cross the Llandrindod Wells finish ramp three seconds to the good over his Scottish rival with Bird's long time friend and adversary Steve Perez in third.
Having not contested the previous two BTRDA rounds due to other commitments, the result means the former ANCRO National Rally champion is up to seventh in the standings but with other drivers yet to drop certain scores, it's still wide open going into next month's Woodpecker Stages.
Paul Bird: "After the run of bad luck in the Isle of Man and then in Barbados, this makes up for it a little but I had to drive the wheels off the car. I didn't have the knowledge of these forests like most of the other drivers but I was delighted with the way I drove and didn't make a mistake all day long. We thought our bad luck had returned when the car stopped on the road section but we just fiddled with a few wires, switched things off and back on again and it worked. My kids Frank and Jordan spurred me on today and Lexi's lucky crocodile has found its mojo again! It's a pity I'm jetting off to the MotoGP in Germany tonight otherwise that champagne that Steve Perez would be buying would taste very sweet indeed!"
1 Paul Bird/Aled Davies Ford Focus 07 WRC 45:23
2 David Weston Jr/Kirsty Riddick Subaru Impreza WRC 45:26
3 Steve Perez/Paul Spooner Ford Focus WRC 45:42
4 Stephen Petch/Ian Windress Ford Fiesta R5+ 46:07
5 Desi Henry/Damien Duffin Mitsubishi EVO 9 46:38
6 Jamie Anderson/Chris Brooks Mitsubishi EVO 9 46:54
7 Tristan Bailey/James How Mitsubishi WRC 47:29
8 Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks Mitsubishi EVO 9 47:35
9 Roland Llewellin/Jamie Edwards Mitsubishi EVO 9 47:43
10 Karl Simmons/Guy Simmons Subaru Impreza WRC 47:56
Championship Positions (provisional)
1 M Robinson 143
2 S Petch 137
3 R Thompson 123
4 R Llewellin 120
5 S Perez 110
6 P Naylor 101
7 P Bird 89
8 L Francis 84
D Weston 84
10 T Naughton 82
Image courtesy of Stuart Woodier - www.rallyaction.co.uk: Paul Bird and Aled Davies on their way to victory on the Nicky Grist Stages Rally