Penrith’s Paul Bird wins Rally Barbados
Last updated at 16:14, Friday, 15 June 2012
Penrith rally driver Paul Bird took a sensational win on Rally Barbados last weekend, a rally he describes as the best in the world, on his fifth attempt.
Bird finished runner-up twice before but he put in the drive of his life with a stunning performance on the Caribbean island.
Victory had just eluded Bird on four occasions before but he admitted driving as hard as he ever had to try and seal the win. A record 99 crews from 15 nations took part in the Caribbean’s largest annual motorsport event which was based from the Barbados capital Bridgetown.
Driving his Ford Focus RS WRC08, and partnered as normal by Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick, Bird set out his intentions from the start with fastest time on the opening stage.
But a spin on stage three saw him drop 20 seconds and then a double puncture towards the end of the sixth stage hampered him further and 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 Paul Bourne.
Sunday's remaining 10 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.
“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 special and it took a huge effort to pull it off,” said an ecstatic Bird at the finish.
“It’s been tough and I made it difficult for myself with a spin yesterday but I must thank the guys here for pushing me so hard.
“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 world rally cars competing, believe me it was tough.”
Back in Cumbria and organisers of the Greystoke Stages have expressed their optimism ahead of this year’s event as entries have flooded in for west Cumbria Motorsport Club’s annual showcase event.
With just three weeks to go until the 38-mile blast through Greystoke Forest on Sunday 8 July, Clerk of the Course Roger Fisher believes things are positive because the rally has secured a slot in five different regional championships.
“Things are looking good at the minute, we’ve got around 26 entries so far and that’s higher than this time last year,” said Fisher.
“Last year we had 47 entries in total and we are optimistic that we can reach that figure again this year – we’d like to aim for 50 as that’s a really manageable number and will allow us to keep the event compact and run it efficiently.
“We’ve got lots of strong local entries plus more people from outside the region and that’s probably because the event is a counting round of more championships this year.
“The stages have all been completely re-graded and the conditions are looking good. We must thank M-Sport again for all their help with the event.”
Following successful charity fund raising at the 2011 Greystoke Stages the organisers will again be supporting a charity at this year’s event.
As in 2011, the chosen charity is the Motor Neurone Disease Association North West Cumbria branch and volunteers from the association will be marshalling the spectator car park with voluntary contributions sought from those using the car park to swell the charity’s funds.
There will also be buckets to accept donations at signing-on and in the service area.
Full details about the rally, and information for spectators, are available from the website at www.greystokestages.co.uk.
First published at 14:11, Friday, 15 June 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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