Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird's hopes of a record-breaking fifth win on his local Malcolm Wilson Rally today were denied when well in command of the second round of the 2015 REIS-RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Championship based in the Lake District.
Having equalled fellow Cumbrian Bill Dobie's long standing record of four outright victories on the event following his win last year, Bird from Langwathby, along with Welsh co driver Aled Davies, were hoping to add to their winning start to the season in the Frank Bird Poultry, Fuchs Titan Race, Hager and Mac Tools-backed Ford Focus WRC07.
Despite the wet and slippery conditions, Bird flew through the opening four stages setting fastest time on them all to arrive back at the Penrith service area with a 15 second lead in the Dom Buckley IRS-prepared car.
However, that lead was negated in the first of the notorious Grizedale stages, which has been his bogey forest in recent years, and the problem was compounded in the second test in the forest high above Windermere when he dropped a further 30 seconds to lose the lead for the first time.
Following second service, the 2005 ANCRO National Champion responded with a fastest time in the short Thornsgill 2 stage but any hopes of clinching another win to add to his 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2014 successes were scuppered when he dropped further time on the final test in Greystoke to arrive at the finish as runner-up for a fifth time on the Cockermouth-based event.
But it wasn't all disappointment for the British Superbike team boss as the result saw him score maximum championship points to add to those scored on last month's Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally to ensure a comprehensive lead in the title race going into the Somerset Stages Rally in six weeks' time.
Paul Bird: "I can honestly say that's the best I've ever driven and to come out in second place is a little disappointing if I'm being honest as we made no mistakes at all. Grizedale has never been kind to me but I had the best run ever through it today and we still lost a lot of time which leaves me thinking that maybe the way I drive in that forest isn't the right way perhaps? The gap back to the other main BTRDA competitors was significant and I'm still leading the championship so all is not lost and when you consider I have now finished in the top two on this rally nine times, it's not a bad record."
1 Euan Thorburn/Richard Cooke - Ford Focus WRC - 45:55
2 Paul Bird/Aled Davies - Ford Focus 07 WRC - 46:41
3 David Weston/Kirsty Riddick - Subaru Impreza WRC - 48:22
4 Stephen Petch/Ian Windress - Ford Fiesta R5+ - 48:26
5 Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol - Ford Fiesta - 49:07
6 Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks - Mitsubishi Evo 10 - 49:24
7 Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy - Mitsubishi Evo 9 - 49:33
8 Luke Francis/John H Roberts - Mitsubishi Evo 9 - 49:35
9 Thomas Naughton/Andi Mort - Mitsubishi Evo 9 - 49:43
10 Matthew Robinson/Kim Baker - Ford Escort MkII - 50:45
Image courtesy of James Ward / www.chicanemedia.co.uk: Paul Bird and Aled Davies on their way to second place in today's Malcolm Wilson Rally.