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Bird Still Set on Sol Rally Barbados Hat-Trick
Close battles anticipated in all four 4wd classes

Despite suffering what he describes as "the biggest crash I've ever had" in the Manx National Rally on Saturday (May 10), England's Paul Bird remains set on a hat-trick of wins in Sol Rally Barbados. 'Birdy' was on course for a fourth victory on the Isle of Man but, with three stages to go, crashed out of the lead in spectacular fashion.

The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is this year celebrating the 25th running of its premier event, which is scheduled for May 30-June 1, with Simpson Motors Scrutineering and Scotiabank King of the Hill the previous weekend (May 24/25). After Geest Line freighter Agulhas Stream docks this week, delivering the bulk of the 28-car International entry, Bird's Mac Tools/Rapid Solicitors/Fuchs Titan/Hager/FBP/Amigos Ford Focus WRC08 is scheduled to land at the Grantley Adams International Airport next Thursday (May 22), a tight deadline to rebuild the car, which was being assessed at M-Sport today (Monday).

With Welsh co-driver Aled Davies, who sat with him for the second of his back-to-back Sol RB victories last year, Bird mastered the mixed conditions last Friday night, winning all six stages and claiming an overnight lead of 2 minutes 25 seconds. With eight further stages on Saturday, Bird made a relatively cautious start, dropping a handful of seconds on the first two, before reasserting his authority to lead by 2mins 30secs after SS10.

He lost 30secs on the next stage, however, so needed to push in the final three tests; the 2005 ANCRO National Champion lost control at high speed on the infamous Druidale stage, rolling a number of times before coming to a halt, luckily without serious injury.

He said: "That was the biggest crash I've ever had. I'm a bit sore and think I've broken some ribs, but Aled is fine. I'm bitterly disappointed for the team as it was my fault entirely - I knew if we had a go on that stage it would make the final two a lot easier, as we'd been having a few niggling problems with the car and I'd dropped a load of time with stalls and spins. I ran wide on a fast corner and we ended up paying a big price for a small mistake. The car is looking a bit sorry for itself, too, but the cage is OK, so the boys will get it sorted and I'm really looking forward to some better luck on Sol Rally Barbados later this month."

When he arrives in the Caribbean, Bird will face the strongest field yet assembled for the region's biggest annual motor sport International - in WRC-1, Bird is joined in the Ford camp by Paul Bourne of Barbados (WRC07), Jamaica's Jeff Panton (WRC06) and Trinidad's John Powell (WRC08), facing the Subaru Impreza WRCs of local hero and 12-time winner Roger Skeete (S12) and Britain's Rob Swann (S11), along with Rally Trinidad 2014 winner, Bajan rising star Neil Armstrong, in the Suzuki SX4 WRC.

Close battles anticipated in all four 4wd classes

Behind the battle for overall supremacy in Sol RB14, close competition is anticipated in the other four-wheel-drive classes. In WRC-2 (cars built before the end of 2003), local Toyota dealer Roger Hill (Corolla WRC) is determined to fight back, after losing his overnight lead in Sol RB13, to finish second in the first year for the new class.

British regulars Roger Duckworth (Impreza S6) and Kevin Procter (S7) were both in recovery mode on day one, Duckworth from an off on stage one, Procter from overheating and anti-lag issues. Duckworth was fastest on eight of Sunday's 11 stages to finish fifth overall, heading Hill and Procter home in WRC-2.

Local driver Dean Serrao (S9) and Trinidad's David Coelho (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, with active diff and sequential gearbox, hence 'WRC') are back again, while two more Imprezas are coming from the UK: Ray Brammer returns to the island after a long absence, now with an S8, while Rob Smith takes over the wheel of the car he built to the UK's B13 regulations for Rob Weir, first seen in Barbados in 2012.

Group A is an entirely International affair; the two Mitsubishis of Ulsterman Joe McQuillan (Evo VII) and Rupert Lomax from Wales (Evo VI) will face England's Stuart Deeley in a yet-to-be-rallied Toyota Celica GT4, built specifically for Sol RB14. Lomax is back after a long break, while the others have more recent knowledge of the event.

Group N also looks set to be hard-fought: Andrew Mallalieu (Impreza N10) is ahead in the local championship, with the Evo IXs of Geoff Noel and last year's Group N winner Mark Thompson right on his tail. Add in the N10 of England's Simon Wallis, back for a ninth visit, and first-timer Tim Green with an older Impreza and anything could happen.

Sol Rally Barbados (May 30 - June 1) and Scotiabank King of the Hill (May 25) are organised and promoted by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 55th Anniversary in 2012; title sponsors are the Sol Group and Scotiabank. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, LIME, Automotive Art, Banks and Karcher; official partners are Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, the Barbados Tourism Authority, Geest Line, the Tourism Development Corporation and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Chefette, Field Insurance, Glacial Pure, HOTT 95.3FM, Little Switzerland, Redline Fuels, Stoute's Car Rental and West Indies Rum Distillery.