Paul Bird headed into the 2011 Malcolm Wilson Rally with hopes for a record breaking fourth win on his local event, but the Ford Focus WRC driver was left disappointed as he could only manage a fourth placed finish.
Bird and co-driver Kirsty Riddick headed into the event hopeful of continuing their success in the Silverstone Competition Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, after finishing second on the opening round of the series, the Wyedean Rally, last month.
Bird, the Kawasaki World Superbike team boss, struggled in the first couple of stages in the Lake District forests, only posting a sixth fastest time in the opener, Comb, before falling further back in SS2, Hobcarton. A better run through SS3, Greystoke, saw Bird head into the Penrith Truckstop service in fourth place, thirty seconds behind the leader.
After service, the Frank Bird Poultry Ltd backed driver had to contend with the two Grizedale tests, which cost him the rally lead last year. Despite pushing to make up time in his Dom Buckley-prepared car, Bird got back to service now thirty-eight seconds behind the new leader and eventual winner Andy Burton in his iconic Peugeot Cosworth.
Heading into the final two stages, a re-run of Greystoke and Wythop, Bird looked to make up time for a podium finish, but arrived at the Cockermouth finish in fourth place, missing out on the chance to add to his 2004, 2006 and 2007 victories.
The results means Bird and Riddick hold a solid second place in the championship standings, six points behind Burton, as they head to the next round, The Somerset Stages on April 16th.
Paul commented: “No excuses! I just simply didn’t drive well enough today and against this level of competition, that’s what happens. There was nothing wrong with the car, everything was absolutely fine, it was down to the driver today and the harder I tried the more mistakes I made and lost even more time. You get days like this and after two retirements in the past two years on this event, I’m pleased to see the finish this year. I’ll take consolation in that we are still second in the championship and go to Somerset knowing I seriously have to up my game if I’m to win this championship. Today was a setback, but it’s certainly not over yet.”
1, Andrew Burton/Robin Kellard – Peugeot Cosworth – 0:49:10
2, Roger Chilman/Andrew Sankey – Subaru Impreza – 0:49:17
3, Charlie Payne/Craig Thorley – Ford Focus WRC – 0:49:38
4, Paul Bird/Kirsty Riddick – Ford Focus WRC – 0:49:50
5, David Howells/Julian Wilkinson – Subaru Impreza – 0:51:22