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Cumbrian rally driver Paul Bird’s much anticipated return to the super-fast asphalt surfaces of the Paul BirdIsle of Man was short lived when a technical problem forced him out of the PokerStars Rally in the early stages last night.

Fresh from his victory on the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally a couple of months ago, Bird, from Langwathby near Penrith, along with County Durham co-driver Jack Morton were confident after missing a couple of years of competing around the Manx lanes where he’d had so much success in the past.

But from the start last night, the Dom Buckley Motorsport/IRS-prepared Ford Focus WRC08, with backing from Frank Bird Poultry, Be Wiser Insurance, Hager, WIX Filters, Silkolene and Loco Energy Drink hit problems with gear selection issues which hampered the former National champion.

Bravely trying to drive around the intermittent electrical problem whereby the car would select a gear at random, Bird set fourth fastest time on the opening test in the dark before upping his pace to hold third position for the next five stages despite the problems.

Sadly, on SS7, a combination of the gearbox issues led to the crew demolishing a chicane and despite minimal damage to the car, Bird, who suffered a shoulder injury in the impact, opted to retire rather than risk further damage to the car, which is scheduled to be flown to Barbados this forthcoming week in order to take part in back-to-back events on the Caribbean island over the next two weekends.

Paul Bird: “It’s always fantastic to compete on the Isle of Man but this weekend wasn’t to be for us. From the start, I knew there was something not right with the car when it started selecting its own gears going to the first stage. It got worse as the night went on and at one point, I was in sixth gear when I don’t even have a sixth gear! In the end, it caused us to have a big shunt at a chicane and it just wasn’t safe to continue. I’ve banged by shoulder really bad, so I need to get that checked out and although the damage to the car is minimal, I didn’t want to give Neil and the lads a load more work before the car goes to Barbados, so we called it a day.”

Whilst double Sol Rally Barbados winner Birdy is in action at the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) Winter Rally over the next couple of weekends, his Be Wiser Ducati Superbike Team are in the Far East for the 51st annual Macau Grand Prix whereby Glenn Irwin is looking to overcome the frustration of retiring within sight of the podium at last year’s event.

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Picture courtesy of Dave Kneen/

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