Paul Bird claimed second overall in his local event, The Malcolm Wilson Rally at the weekend. After winning the four opening stages he dropped time in the Ford Focus WRC on the middle loop and subsequently lost the lead. Brian Bell got his confidence up in his new Focus, similar to Bird’s, and took a huge step in the right direction with confidence and learning of the car to claim a solid 19th overall. Andy Kelly won his class and finished 36th overall in the Mk 1 Escort.
Fresh from winning Round 1 quite comfortable and also a tarmac event the week before that, Bird was full of confidence in the Fuchs Silkolene, Mac Tools, Hager and Frank Bird Poultry backed Focus WRC. He and co-driver, Aled Davies started as they finished the last rally with winning the first 2 stages to open up an 8 second lead ahead of the former BTRDA champion, Euan Thorburn. Brian Bell had a cautious run through the opening stage where he was 39th fastest but a 22nd fastest through the 5.5 miles of Comb saw him jump to 25th after two stages. Andy Kelly was second in class H2 after the two stages some 14 seconds off the class leader.
After a quick management service en route to stage 3 Bird set yet another fastest time before blitzing everyone again in Greystoke to hold a 15 second lead at midday service. Thorburn was giving chase in second and Weston was 3rd almost half
- Paul Bird’s car receives a check over at service by a member of the team.
a minute behind the flying Bird. Two solid runs through the stages for Bell and co-driver Matthew Whattam, meant they jumped up another few places to lie 22nd at service. Kelly, piloting the Escort Mk 1 that he named “Walter” stepped up the pace on the two stages before service. Two fastest in class times saw him close the gap slightly to class leader Dobson to 9 seconds.
Both Ford Focus WRC’s received the usual check overs in the 20 minutes allocated for service by the Dom Buckley Motorsport team and even had time for a quick wash. The long drive down to Grizedale for SS5 and SS6 followed service. Bird, running at number 1 as he was the winner of the event in 2014, set off through the first Grizedale stages, Grizedale North. Thorburn would take a huge chunk of time from Bird on this stage. The 15 second lead he had built in the morning had gone and the pair were now equal. Dave Weston in the Subaru Impreza WRC punctured and dropped over a minute so that meant Jim McNeil was promoted into the final podium spot but he was almost a minute behind the two Focus
- Andy Kelly in “Walter” after the first stage.
WRC’s of Bird and Thorburn. There was then another long delay at the start of SS6 due to another accident in the two wheel drives which were all running in front of the four wheel drives, The accumulation of delays would see the 4WD cars finish the rally over an hour and a half later than scheduled. Thorburn once again set a vey quick time. Twenty nine seconds quicker than Bird. Bird however was still second quickest on both stages and could not understand where Thorburn got the time. Bell drove faultlessly through the very technical stages and brought the car back to service having climbed up another place to 21 st and only a couple of seconds away from the top 20. Andy Kelly showed exactly how good a driver he is on these two stages. On both stages he set times no more than 5 seconds down on the World Car of Brian Bell to open up a 45 second lead in class H2. With only 8 miles of stages left he pretty much tied up the win on those two stages.
So a quick 1 mile repeat of Stage 3 then another run through Greystoke before the end of the day. Bird and Thorburn tied fastest on SS7 and then Thorburn took 17 seconds out of Bird in Greystoke to win by 46 seconds, Weston was on a mission to try and claim that podium spot he lost due to a puncture and was 1 second down on the Fiesta R5+ of Stephen Petch going into the last stage. Weston, with Bird’s former co-driver Kirsty Riddick on the notes was 3rd fastest through the stage but he was seven up on Petch so he took 3rd overall and a good haul of championship points. The delays had now mounted up to over the hour and a half mark and the light was beginning to fade. Running half an hour behind Bird, Bell was struggling for vision in the fading light on the last two. He had climbed to 18th overall but dropped a place as he struggled on the final stage. Still a very enjoyable rally for the man only two rallies into his comeback and he noticed several improvements with his driving. Andy Kelly just had to steer “Walter” through the final two stages to claim victory in H2 and that he did, winning the class by 47 seconds and claiming 36th overall.
1. E.Thorburn / R.Cooke – Ford Focus WRC
2. P.Bird / A.Davies – Ford Focus WRC +46seconds
3. D.Weston / K.Riddick – Subaru Impreza WRC +2mins 27sec
4. S.Petch / I.Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ +2mins 31sec
5. A.Gallacher / J.Nicol – Ford Fiesta +3mins 13sec