Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird's hopes of maintaining his lead in the 2015 REIS-RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Championship suffered a blow when he was forced out of today's Somerset Stages Rally after just two stages.
Following victory on the season opener Wyedean Stages Rally in February which he followed up with a second place on his local Malcolm Wilson Rally last month, the Langwathby driver made the long trip south to continue his assault on the title he narrowly missed out on last year.
Celebrating his birthday, Bird was second fastest up the Porlock Toll Road Stage before setting fastest time on the second run in the Frank Bird Poultry, Fuchs Titan Race, Hager and Mac Tools-backed Ford Focus WRC07 he was sharing with Welsh co-driver Aled Davies.
However, on the road section to the next stage, the car developed a technical problem when a water pump belt broke and unable to repair it as the temperature escalated, the 2005 ANCRO National Champion had no option but to retire.
Paul Bird: "It's disappointing but I had bad luck on this event last year also. I knew on the first run up the hill that something wasn't right with the car and it got no better on SS2 so it didn't surprise me there was a problem. Once I saw the temperature go off the gauge I knew it was game over. It's not a disaster as it's a round I will drop but it dents my hopes in the combined BTRDA Rally Challenge but I'm sure we can make up lost ground as the season progresses."
Bird will next be in action on the IMGold Manx National Rally, where he attempts a fourth win and which takes place on 8/9th May.
Image courtesy of James Ward/Chicane Media: Paul Bird and Aled Davies in action on today's Somerset Stages Rally from which they retired.