Bird gearing up for Sol Rally Barbados
Fresh from back-to-back victories on tarmac and gravel over consecutive weekends in the United Kingdom, double Sol Rally Barbados winner Paul Bird has confirmed his entry for this year’s 25th anniversary event.
With Welsh co-driver Aled Davies, he will again campaign the Frank Bird Poultry/Fuchs Titan Race/Hager/Mac Tools Ford Focus WRC08, in which he has won five of seven domestic events contested since Sol Rally Barbados 2014.
Last Saturday Cumbrian driver Bird got his 2015 BTRDA Rally Championship year off to the best possible start with a comprehensive victory in the 40th Wyedean Forest Rally in South Wales, which was sponsored by another Barbados regular, Rob Weir, through his Weir Engineering business, based just a few miles down the road from rally headquarters at Chepstow Racecourse.
It was only Bird’s third visit to the Forest of Dean, where he finished second last year and in 2011, so he was determined to be on the pace, particularly as he was facing a quality entry. He was beaten on the day’s opening stage by Yorkshire’s Charlie Payne (Ford Fiesta ST), but a string of three stage wins gave Bird a 21-second lead at lunch.
With two more stage wins, Bird was 34 seconds to the good at the finish over Scottish rival David Weston Jnr (Subaru Impreza WRC S12), whose co-driver Kirsty Riddick sat with Bird on his first Sol Rally Barbados win in 2012. Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (Impreza S11) finished third, a further 9 seconds adrift.
Bird said: “That’s the perfect way to get our championship bid going and I’m especially pleased with how I drove today. 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.”
A week earlier, Bird had claimed his third consecutive win on the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally, based in the seaside resort of Blackpool, where his co-driver was Andrew Roughead. With cool but dry conditions for Friday night’s opening loop, Bird made a wrong tyre choice, finishing second to Simon Bowen (Impreza S11) on the first two stages, before taking the lead on the Blackpool Promenade.
Bird’s nine-second overnight advantage was increased to 35 seconds on Saturday morning, until a poor run through the Fleetwood Docks, including a stage maximum, saw his lead slashed to six seconds. He fought back with five stage wins, however, then continued to build his lead, arriving back at the finish ramp more than two minutes ahead of Tony Bardy (Nissan Pulsar GTiR), a two-time winner of the tarmac event.
Bird added: “To come away with a third win on the trot is fantastic. It was forecast below freezing on Friday night, so we went with ice tyres, which proved to be a wrong choice as I should have been on inters. On Saturday, I made it hard work for myself when I wrong-slotted on SS10 and lost a big chunk of my lead, but I hold my hands up to that.”
Having finished runner-up in the 2013 MSA Asphalt Rally Championship and then the forest-based 2014 REIS BTRDA series, Bird plans to go one better this year: “It’s about time I won one of these championships, I’m fed up of being the bridesmaid!”
Bird’s Wyedean victory last week was his fifth in seven events in the Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Focus, following wins last year on his return from Barbados on the Quinton, Woodpecker and Grizedale Stages; he finished on the podium in his other two outings, second on the Trackrod Stages and third on the Cambrian Rally.
Bird’s Barbados record is unrivalled among overseas visitors. His consecutive wins in 2012 and 2013 followed four podium finishes, second in 2008 (Impreza S9) and 2009 (Focus WRC07), then third for the next two years (Focus WRC08). Last year he was leading by 25 seconds when he ran wide on stage 13, damaged a wheel and retired.