A week after his GT race success in Monza, it was back to rally action for Penrith-born driver Frank Bird thisweekend where he was contesting round two of the COVID-19 delayed 2020/2021 Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship with MSVR.
The 2021 Snetterton Stages Rally was based at the Norfolk racetrack and after winning the opening round at Donington Park in December, the 21-year-old Cumbrian, along with Maryport-based co-driver Jack Morton were hoping to repeat the feat to continue their remarkable run of form.
Out in a Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time, with backing from Frank Bird Poultry, Aico, Yuasa, Mac Tools, Fuchs Silkolene, VisionTrack and PBM, the pair were up against the usual top-quality entry including British Championship stars Rhys Yates and James Morgan in a similar car.
Bird stopped the clocks four seconds slower than Yates on SS1 before setting second fastest time again on the next three stages to reach halfway 15 seconds adrift but getting to grips with the different characteristics of the R5 as opposed to the normal Ford Focus WRC08 he has previously driven.
Frank pulled a second back on SS5, but Yates increased his narrow advantage on the next two stages to hold a 16 second lead going into the final test as the pair could hardly be separated. Giving it his all, Frank set fastest time on the eighth and final stage but despite his best efforts, he had to settle for runner-up spot just 14 seconds behind his rival.
It was a valiant effort considering Bird was up against a driver with World Championship experience and it was his first time out in the Ford Fiesta R5.
The result saw Frank increase his lead in the championship title race and kept up his fine run which now reads seven wins, one second place and a DNF in his last nine rallies highlighting his potential on both gravel and asphalt.
His next outing is in two weeks’ time at Magny Cours for Team WRT in the Audi to contest the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Championship before returning to rally action in May to compete in the Neil Howard Memorial Stages Rally at Oulton Park.
Frank Bird: “I’m really happy with how today has gone. I had not driven the car before so to just jump in it and be on the pace from the off is very satisfying and to finish behind a driver of Rhys’ quality and experience isn’t anything to be ashamed of. We had a great day with no problems or mistakes, and it was good to get back rallying. Thanks to the organisers and marshals for putting on a great event and as always to Jack for doing a great job on the maps. Also, a special thanks to Neil Buckley and my dad for pulling this all together and of course our loyal sponsors for making it possible.”
Pictures attached copyright free, courtesy of James Ward, Chicane Media Photography (www.chicanemedia.co.uk)