Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird got his 2015 BTRDA Rally Championship campaign underway in the best possible fashion by taking a comprehensive victory in the Forest of Dean on today's Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally.
Fresh from last weekend's victory on the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally, the 2005 ANCRO National Champion was back in action in the woods for the first time in three months and competing for only the third time on the Chepstow based event whereby the previous two visits heralded runner-up spot on both occasions.
Along with Welsh co driver Aled Davies in the Frank Bird Poultry, Fuchs Titan Race, Hager and Mac Tools-backed Ford Focus WRC07, the pair were on the pace from the off with Paul keen to make up for missing out on the 2014 title by the narrowest of margins.
Despite the quality entry, the British Superbike team boss upped his pace through the opening loop to arrive at half distance with a 21 second lead. Bird continued his relentless charge without any problems and after five stage wins and three second fastest times, arrived at the finish 34 seconds to the good over Scottish rivals David Weston and Kirsty Riddick in their Subaru WRC.
As well as taking maximum points in the 2015 BTRDA Series opener, it was Bird's third successive rally victory to add to the Legend Fires North West Stages and Coppermines Grizedale Stages Rally. It also meant in the last seven rallies he has contested, he has won five and finished on the podium on the other two occasions.
It also means that the driver from Langwathby goes into his local event next month brimful of confidence as he looks to add another good points haul when he contests the Malcolm Wilson Rally on March 7th. Having won the event for a record-equalling fourth time last year, Bird will be looking to create history by becoming the first man in history to win the Cockermouth-based event five times in his native Lake District.
Paul Bird: "That's the perfect way to get our championship bid underway and I'm especially pleased with how I drove today. The stages are always fast and tricky but I felt sharp and knew it was a case of managing the lead. Everything was faultless today and there was such a strong entry, I knew it wasn't going to be easy but it's good to keep the winning run going and after finishing second twice on this event, it's great to get the win. The crowds were phenomenal and it was like driving on a world championship event but maximum points were what we came for and I'm hoping we can repeat the result on the Malcolm Wilson Rally in three weeks time.”
Full results of the Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally are available by following the event link at www.btrdarallyresults.co.uk and details of the forthcoming Malcolm Wilson Rally can be found at www.malcolmwilson.co.uk.
1 Paul Bird/Aled Davies - Ford Focus 07 WRC - 42m 25s
2 David Weston/Kirsty Riddick - Subaru Impreza WRC - +34s
3 Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank - Subaru Impreza S11 - +43
4 Charles Payne/Carl Williamson - Ford Escort Fiesta ST - +1:06
5 Nik Elsmore/Matt Edwards - Mitsubishi EVO - +1:36
6 Damian Cole/Jack Morton - Ford Focus WRC - +1:49
7 Stephen Petch/Ian Windress - Ford Fiesta R5+ - +2:01
8 Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead - Ford Fiesta S2400 - +2:12
9 Bob Ceen/Andy Bull - Subaru Impreza WRC - +2:29
10 Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy - Mitsubishi EVO 9 N4 - +2:36
Image courtesy of James Ward / www.chicanemedia.co.uk Paul Bird and Aled Davies on their way to victory in today's Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally.