Paul Bird successfully defended his Jack Frost Stages Rally title to make it a record four wins in a row on Sunday’s event at a blustery Croft Circuit.
Driving the Fuchs Titan, Rapid Solicitors and Kick Energy-backed FBP Ford Focus WRC07, Bird and Scottish co driver Kirsty Riddick set fastest times on all eight stages to win by a healthy two minutes and 12 seconds on the annual Darlington & District Motor Club event, this year sponsored by Autogas 2000.
Event sponsor Chris Wise chased Bird home in his MG Metro 6R4 but the double winner from 2007 and 2008had no answer for the British Superbike and MotoGP team boss who added to his 2009, 2010 and 2011 successes.
Not that the Cumbrian had it all his own way as a spin on the opening stage was followed by a brief rain shower on SS2 just as he was about to leave the line on slick tyres but once he got into the swing of his first tarmac event since Rally Barbados last summer, he never looked like being headed.
The event was the first of three pre-season rallies he plans on contesting before an inaugural assault on the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship this season.
Bird makes his debut on the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally in two weeks time which he will follow with a rare outing on gravel this season with his local Malcolm Wilson Rally on March 3.
“It’s great to win this event for a record-breaking fourth time, especially as I’ve not driven the car on tarmac for seven months,” said Swift.
“It took me a while to get going and the opening couple of stages were not perfect by any means. But once I got into my stride, everything started flowing and we got the vital testing time with the car we needed.
“I’m going to give the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship a good go this year as I’ve never done a tarmac series but I’ll still do the odd gravel event when it suits me.”
Results 1, Paul Bird/Kirsty Riddick, Ford Focus WRC, 0:51:40;2, Chris Wise/Tracey Taylor West, MG Metro 6R4, 0:53:52;3, Paul Swift/David Cox, Ford Escort Mk2, 0:55:25;4, Pete Gibson/Josh Davison, Mitsubishi Evo6, 0:55:33;5, Simon Bowen/Richard Robinson, Subaru Impreza, 0:55:59;6, Andy Davison/Mike Curry, Mitsubishi Evo5, 0:56:00;7, Martin Elsdon/John Frew, Ford Escort Mk2, 0:56:03;8, Steve Quigley/Terry Martin, Renault Clio 16v, 0:56:21; 9, Ed Todd/Andy Brown, GTM Coupe, 0:56:37;10, Paul Alsop/Chris Alsop, Chrysler Sunbeam, 0:57:09.