Bentham's Wright narrowly avoids disaster but Bird must wait another year for Malcolm Wilson Rally glory (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Bentham's Wright narrowly avoids disaster but Bird must wait another year for Malcolm Wilson Rally glory
CUMBRIAN rally driver Paul Bird must wait another year before adding a record-equalling fourth Malcolm Wilson Rally victory to his tally after finishing runner-up for the second consecutive year following another epic battle in the Lake District forests this weekend.
Driving the Fuchs Titan, Rapid Solicitors, MinxFlix.com and Kick Energy-backed Frank Bird Poultry Ford Focus WRC07, Bird and co driver Carl Williamson were forced to settle for second place just 20 seconds down on Scottish pairing Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) at the Cockermouth finish after the 45 stage miles of competition on round two of the REIS Get Connected BTRDA Rally Series.
Back in his local forests after retiring on last year's Grizedale Stages, the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss from Langwathby, who won the event in 2004, 2006 and 2007, set about his chase for victory with fastest times on the opening two stages in Hobcarton and Comb which he consolidated in Greystoke to lead by five seconds over Thorburn going into the two tricky Grizedale stages.
But the forest near Coniston wasn't kind to the three times winner once again and despite a good clean through the first 7.33 miler, Bird surrendered the lead to Thorburn by eight seconds and the Scot increased that advantage to 26 seconds after the 10.8 miles of Grizedale South.
Bird clawed back eight seconds with an amazing fastest time in Greystoke to set up a thrilling climax but only the short Wythop test remained where Thorburn eased to victory to deny the former National Champion a fourth win to equal Bill Dobie's record going back 30 years.
Bird said: "After losing out by just three seconds last year, I was really up for winning this year although I knew it wouldn't be easy with such a strong entry.
“I'm a bit deflated to be honest as well as a little disappointed but I can have no excuses. The car was faultless, Carl and the team did a great job, but I'll be back again next year to try and get that elusive fourth win."
Despite the early exit of Bentham’s David Wright on the Malcolm Wilson Rally, several Cumbrians had a fruitful day with most taking home trophies.
Wright was in good company on the retirement list with 2012 winner Hugh Hunter, Malcolm Wilson, David Bogie and Arnside’s Wayne Sisson all falling prey to mechanical gremlins in the north Lakes stages.
Windermere’s Gary Tomlinson led the way, finishing in 21st place and highest placed KLMC crew with Marcus Noble from Penrith taking his new Escort Mk 2 into 29th place and second in class.
Flookborough’s Aaron McClure had a better day than on the Wyedean, the first round of the national BTRDA Series, last month when he crashed out of first in class. Last weekend he made up for it by finishing 38th overall and first in class in his Fiesta ST.
McClure made his bid for honours over the fourth and fifth stages in the Grizedale Complex where he stretched his lead before consolidating his position in the final Lakes mileage.
Competing in his second Malcolm Wilson rally, McClure said: “We had a really good day - the new car is so much quicker so it was totally different to last year’s event. We were flat out on some of the straights which made it a bit more interesting!”
Ewan Thorburn took his Focus WRC into a 20-second lead over Cumbrian Paul Bird with Ireland’s Connor McCloske 44 seconds behind Bird.
Sunday saw Grange-over-Sands’ Ian Curwen take his 1400 Vauxhall Nova to Three Sisters Circuit in Wigan for the Roskirk Stages.
Seeded number 13 he was beginning to wonder why when a tyre came unseated from the rim on its way to scrutineering and the front brakes stuck on for the first stage. Luckily things got better and he finally finished 14th overall and second in class.
Carnforth’s Jon Wood got back into the driving seat of his Morris Mini Cooper and took fourth overall and first in class on the first round of the HRCR Clubmans Championship.
Barrow’s Bob and Sue McClean got their Rover P4 into 15th place with Kendal’s Martyn Taylor navigating Andy Lane into ninth.