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Ford Focus WRC pilot Paul Bird ensured his return to the sport was a successful one by taking victory at the EVENTSIGNS Woodpecker Stages Rally (2nd September) in Ludlow with co-driver Jamie Edwards alongside.

Bird, contesting only his second event since 2015 would dominate much of the six-stage event in the Welsh Marches and Shropshire forests, edging out a 30-second win over a hard charging Callum Black and Elliott Edmondson who took a worthy second spot in their Fiesta R5. Last year’s winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson rounded off the top three, taking the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series title in the process.

Rewind to the opening loop of stages in the Radnor Forest however, and the leader board would be a very much different picture to that of the podium back at Ludlow Racecourse on Saturday afternoon. A new format greeted the 150 strong entry and predicting an outcome would be a tricky affair, with several previous event winners in the top 5 seeds.

British Championship regular Jamie Anderson opened proceedings with the fastest time through the first two Radnor tests to lead the event into the first service of the day. But with third gear failing on the Mitsubishi WRC 04, Bird was left to pick up the pieces and despite not setting an overall fastest time until the final test of the day, had opened up a big enough gap to cross the finish ramp with a significant margin.

“It’s good to be back,” said Bird at the finish. “It’s been a fantastic rally and the stages have been great today, they have really suited the Focus and me, to be honest. Two years is a long time out of the sport but I did a rally in Scotland a few weeks ago which eased me back in. It’s been great having Jamie (Edwards) with me today to push me on. I’ve really enjoyed this one”.

Black, however, would do his best to take his inaugural BTRDA round win at the event and would never feature outside of the top three all day long. Losing 30 seconds in stage four would hamper any further progress however, meaning Black and Edmondson would have to settle for runner up spot. Their efforts were rewarded with maximum points in the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship.

Last year’s winner Stephen Petch got off to a slow start thanks to two time-consuming overshoots in the morning’s stages and the Fiesta WRC driver would be playing catch up for the rest of the day. Fastest time in Haye Park showed promise, but he was unable to catch Black over the closing stages to take the final podium place. The BTRDA title was a substantial consolation for the Northumbrian however.

Featuring as high as second during the day, Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg were enjoying their first foray in a Fiesta World Rally Car but couldn’t quite match the more experienced runners out front. Hunter was a happy fourth at the Ludlow finish.

Rounding off the top five was Luke Francis and John Roberts in the first non-Ford home. Francis had been out of action since the Carlisle Stages in June and fired in an equal fastest time though Haye Park but he simply could not live with the frontrunners on the day.

Ludlow favourite Shaun Gardener was forced to withdraw before the event, leaving the honour of first local home to the Ford Escort Mk2 pilot Roger Chilman from Hereford. Chilman and co-driver Bryan Thomas took 14th overall and scooped the Historic category and two-wheel drive honours in the process.

John Perrott and Dan Petrie from Leominster rounded off the top 20, with Ludlow’s Dave and Toby Brick taking the 1400 class win.

The Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event is one of the most popular on the UK rallying calendar and is now in its 34th year.

The rally was once again sponsored once again by Midlands based signage specialists EVENTSIGNS and was joined by an abundance of national and regional rally championships.

As well as the BTRDA and Welsh Championships, the event is a round of the Maxxis Tyres MSA English Rally Championship, http://www.jelfmotorsport.com Welsh Clubman’s 2WD Forest Rally Championship, ANWCC Forest Rally Championship and the Reis Motorsport Insurance ASWMC Loose Surface Stage Rally Championship.

More information on the event, can be found at
http://www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk

Image RallySport Media

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