Twelve months after finishing runner-up on the event for the second year in succession, Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird couldn’t quite match his previous successes and had to settle for third place on last weekend’s SOL Rally Barbados behind local aces Roger Skeete and Paul Bourne.

In one of the closest finishes in the 20-year history of Barbados Rally Club’s International All-Stage Rally; the winning margin of just 1.16secs was the narrowest since 2001 after two thrilling days of competition, during which the lead changed four times. Bird, from Langwathby, was just over 11 seconds further back in third place after over an hour’s competitive driving on the Caribbean roads.

Driving the www.supercasino.com and Vent Axia backed Ford Focus WRC08 which was specially flown in for the event, Bird and Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick got off to the worst possible start when a stall cost them 16 seconds on the opening Canefield stage on Saturday but the former ANCRO National champion hit back on the next stage in Malvern and at the lunch halt on day one, Bird held second place just nine seconds down on the leading Subaru of Skeete. Joint fastest on the second run through Malvern, Bird upped his pace again and grabbed the lead but a mighty effort from Skeete on the day’s final stage saw him two seconds faster than Bird to lead overnight by 1.16 seconds.

Second to Bourne on Sunday’s opening Stewarts Hill stage, Bird then took the lead again before Skeete took it back but with three stage wins in a row, Bourne passed Bird for second place as the battle intensified. Over the next six stages, Skeete and Bourne enjoyed a titanic struggle with Bird overcoming a persistent clutch problem on the Dom Buckley-prepared car.

Into the Super Special at Warrens and Bird could only manage 11th fastest on the first run before claiming second place on the last test to finish third and in doing so, he claimed the highest placed international competitor award and co-driver Riddick the highest-placed female trophy to add to their third place silverware which they claimed at the previous weekends Shell V-Power King of the Hill Rallysprint.

Paul Bird: “Of course I’m a little disappointed not to win but finishing third and less than 13 seconds behind a pair of drivers who have 13 wins between them round here isn’t too shabby. It was a hell of a scrap between us all, probably the best rally battle I’ve ever been involved in, and had we not had a few minor clutch problems, we could have been celebrating a win. I won’t rest until I’ve won this event but I’ll have to find something extra to beat these locals as they are really on it, don’t believe anyone who tells you different!”

2010 SOL Rally Barbados – Results
1 Roger Skeete/Louis Venezia – Subaru Impreza WRC S12 – 1h 01m 07.57s
2 Paul Bourne/Allan Kinch – Ford Focus WRC 07 – 1h 01m 09.23s
3 Paul Bird/Kirsty Riddick – Ford Focus WRC 08 – 1h 01m 20.36s
4 John Powell/Craig Thorley – Subaru Impreza WRC S12 – 1h 02m 10.98s
5 Sean Gill/Michael Cummins – Mitsubishi WRC – 1h 02m 33.44s
6 Roger Hill/Graham Gittens – Toyota Corolla WRC – 1h 02m 48.72s
7 Jeffrey Panton/Mike Fennell Jnr – Ford Focus WRC 00 – 1h 04m 08.33s
8 Ian Warren/Robert Warren – Suzuki Swift – 1h 05m 15.06s
9 Rob Swann/Darren Garrod – Subaru Impreza N14 – 1h 05m 20.54s
10 Geoffrey Noel/Kreigg Yearwood – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX – 1h 05m 26.73s

Picture courtesy of Graham Curry Photography.

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