In what has got to be his best performance to date in his fledgling rally career, Penrith-born driver Frank Bird took a remarkable victory on today’s M-Sport Stages Rally.
Just two days after celebrating his 21st birthday, and on only his second ever rally on gravel after winning the corresponding Greystoke Stages last year, the event saw the welcome return of the sport courtesy of Malcolm Wilson’s World Rally Championship Team who fielded a team of competitors in the single-venue event in Greystoke Forest.
Along with Hexham co-driver Jack Morton in the Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Ford Focus WRC07, with backing from VisionTrack, Yuasa, Frank Bird Poultry, Hager, Mac Tools, ELAS, Fuchs Silkolene and PBM, the pair were up against a very strong field including such drivers as Matthew Wilson, Rhys Yates and Adrien Formaux, all with World Championship experience, who were using the event as a test.
In difficult damp conditions, Frank set seventh fastest time on SS1 before remarkably stopping the clocks third fastest on SS2. He held fourth overall from then onwards, almost matching the times of the leading drivers for the remaining four stages.
Courtesy of another third fastest time on the final stage, just three seconds behind Wilson in the latest Ford Fiesta WRC, Frank was all set to claim a superb fourth place but prior to crossing the finish ramp, the three crews in front sportingly withdrew leaving Frank and Jack to take a deserved victory.
Frank Bird: “What a fantastic day overall on the M-Sport Stages. I was a bit nervous going into theevent having not driven on gravel for over a year and not been on pacenotes for a while. We took it stage by stage and got back into it quickly setting some really competitive times straight away and I was comfortable in the car. The afternoon was very strong for us, setting top three stage times against factory drivers and top machinery. We managed to get fourth overall and first non-M-Sport entry, but it was a great gesture for the guys in front to allow me the win. I’m really happy with the whole day, Jack was brilliant on the notes as usual and the car was fantastic in all conditions so thanks once again to Dom Buckley Motorsport and of course my dad and our sponsors for making it possible.”
Paul Bird: “It’s been a brilliant day what with my British Superbike riders finishing first and second at Snetterton, but I’ve been glued to my phone watching the rally results. I’m absolutely astounded by Frank’s performance against what are effectively World Championship drivers in the latest cars. It was good of them to concede and allow him to take the overall victory which was amazing considering he’d only competed on gravel once before. His times were competitive all day long and he really has made a lot of people sit up and take note.”
Images courtesy of Drew Gibson