Penrith rally driver Paul Bird failed to add a record-equalling fourth Malcolm Wilson Rally victory to his record by the slenderest of margins following a classic battle in the Lake District forests this weekend.

Driving the Fuchs Titan, Rapid Solicitors and Kick Energy-backed FBP Ford Focus WRC07, Bird and Scottish co driver Kirsty Riddick had to settle for second place, just three seconds behind winners Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank (Ford Focus) at the Cockermouth finish after the 45 stage miles of competition on round two of the REIS Get Connected BTRDA Rally Series.

On a rare gravel outing and his first since last year’s Grizedale Stages, the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss could only manage fourth fastest time on the opening test in Comb, dropping 11 crucial seconds to Hunter, who capitalised by adding a further two seconds to his advantage over Bird on Hobcarton and Greystoke to leave the Cumbrian in third place and 13 seconds off the lead at Service.

However, Bird was now getting into his stride and after the two challenging tests in Grizedale, the former National Champion had reduced the deficit courtesy of fastest time in Grizedale South to set up a nail-biting finale.

He flew through the penultimate stage in Greystoke to claw back Hunter’s margin to just five seconds meaning the final stage in the tricky Wythop woods was where the destiny of the victory would be determined and despite setting fastest time again, Bird fell those three seconds agonisingly short of equalling Bill Dobie’s four wins on the event.

Bird, the winner in 2004, 2006 and 2007, said: “I blew it on the first stage if I’m being honest as I wasn’t quite on the ball and you can’t afford to drop any time at all as the BTRDA competition is so strong these days. As soon as we got into our stride, the speed came and whilst I’m disappointed to miss out on the victory by such a small amount, fair play to Hugh as he drove well and deserved the win. I’m not sure when I’ll be back out on gravel so it would have been good to sign off with a win but now it’s time to concentrate on the job in hand and that’s to see how we got on against the established tarmac regulars this season.”

Bird will be in action as soon as next Sunday when he contests the first of the REIS Get Connected MSA Asphalt Rally Championship rounds, the Tour of Epynt.


1. Hugh Hunter / Andy Marchbank 0:48:49
2. Paul Bird / Kirsty Riddick 0:48:52
3. Euan Thorburn / Paul Beaton 0:50:00
4. Michael O’Brien / Patrick Walsh 0:50:12
5. Shaun Gardener/ Ben Innes 0:50:21
6. Jamie Anderson /Ella Flynn 0:50:29
7. Matt Edwards / Sam Collis 0:50:38
8. Steven Clark / Colin Smith 0:51:02
9. Dan O’Brien / Paul Morris 0:51:38
10. Dylan Davies / Eryl Evans 0:51:54

Photo by Ian Hardy: Paul Bird and Kirsty Riddick on their way to second place on the Malcolm Wilson Rally.



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