After many years of trying which included finishing runner-up twice and another two times in third place, Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird finally managed to clinch the elusive victory on SOL Rally Barbados with a stunning drive on the Caribbean island over the weekend.
The Fuchs Titan, Rapid Solicitors and Kick Energy-backed Frank Bird Poultry Ford Focus WRC08 driver from Langwathby and his Scottish co driver Kirsty Riddick followed up their win in the Sol Go Further/Scotiabank King of the Hill event the previous weekend by seeing off a strong local challenge as well as a class international field to land the big one but it wasn’t without drama.
Seeded at number one, Bird set out his intentions early with fastest time on the opening stage but a spin on SS3 saw him drop 20 seconds and then a double puncture towards the end of SS6 hampered him further which saw him drop down to sixth place overall in the Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared car.
The 2005 MSA National Rally Champion fought back in typical fashion and set fastest time on the final three stages on Saturday to hold second place overnight, just three seconds off the lead as he slugged it out with Bajan Ford Focus WRC crews Roger Skeete and Louis Venezia as well as Paul Bourne and Megan Bryant.
Sunday’s remaining ten stages saw Bird immediately into his groove and courtesy of fastest time on the day’s opening test, he took the lead which he was not to relinquish. However, the battle was raging at the front and despite setting fastest times on five of the day’s stages, and taking second fastest on the other three, the boss of the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki British Superbike and PBMUK MotoGP teams held only a slender 15 second lead going into the final two stages.
There, a pair of steady drives to protect his advantage ensued and at the finish, Bird had done enough to claim his debut Sol Rally Barbados victory by 12 seconds over Bourne and Bryant with Trinidadians Jeffrey Panton and Michael Fennell Jnr in third whereas Bird’s friend and rival from the UK, Steve Perez and co driver Paul Spooner claimed fourth.
Paul Bird: “I’m still in disbelief that I’ve actually won the best rally in the world! Having come so close so many times in the past makes this so special and it took a huge effort to pull it off. I’ve been suffering from an ear infection all week and I also made things harder for myself with a couple of silly mistakes, but at least one was right in front of the Greenlight TV crew! I had to drive as hard as I’ve ever done in my life to win but it was worth it and I’d like to say a big thanks to the whole team. To beat the likes of Paul Bourne and Roger Skeete on their home ground takes some doing but we managed it in the end and with a dozen WRCs competing, believe me it was tough! Well done to Steve Perez as well, he’s not gone badly for someone who isn’t used to tarmac, but he’s still buying the beer!”
1 Paul Bird/Kirsty Riddick (Ford Focus WRC08)
2 Paul Bourne/Megan Bryant (Ford Focus WRC07)
3 Jeffrey Panton/Michael Fennell Jnr (Ford Focus WRC06)
4 Steve Perez/Paul Spooner (Ford Focus WRC07)
5 Neil Armstrong/Barry Ward (Toyota Starlet)
6 Roger Duckworth/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza WRC)
7 Rob Swann/Darren Garrod (Subaru Impreza WRC)
8 Josh Read/Mark Jordan (Toyota Starlet)
9 Roger Mayers/Barry Mayers (WR Starlet)
10 Logan Watson/Rhett Watson (BMW M3)
Picture Credit: Courtesy of Sean Chandler www.vtcaribbean.com: Paul Bird and Kirsty Riddick on their way to winning 2012 SOL Rally Barbados.