Penrith-born driver Frank Bird put in a stunning performance on his stage rally debut when he sensationally won his class at the Dukeries Motor Club-organised Donington Rally held at Donington Park last weekend.
Along with Hexham co-driver Jack Morton in the Dom Buckley Motorsport/IRS-prepared Ford Focus WRC07, the 19 year old only found out they had a run late on Saturday so thanks to a herculean effort by Neil Buckley and his team, they arrived at the start as drizzle started to fall.
Damp and slippery conditions on the opening stage contributed to them colliding with a barrier causing damage to the front of the car and finishing the stage with the bonnet firmly against the broken windscreen. But smart work by the team soon had the necessary repairs effected and they continued with minimal time loss.
Despite the early handicap, the pair were soon up to fifth overall after SS3 as the rain continued to fall. From there, a controlled drive in difficult conditions saw the pair come home in an impressive fifth overall, with Frank, who only gained his rally licence in midweek, claiming the Class 5 honours as a result.
Recapping on his achievements, Frank said:
“What a great first experience of rallying! I was thrown in right at the deep end as it was my first ever rally and only my second time in the car as well as the first time with a co-driver. The first stage didn’t really go to plan as I made a small mistake in the wet conditions and hit a tyre wall, but I managed to finish the stage with the bonnet up which was a different experience altogether. But after that I got more and more comfortable in the car and with the track and got quicker each stage with some competitive times. Thanks to my co driver Jack who was brilliant and helped me so much and also to the team who fixed the car and were faultless all day! Also, thanks to dad for loaning me the car and to all the sponsors.”
Echoed by his father and team owner, Paul Bird:
"I think he’s reasonably happy with his performance and he’s achieved a brilliant result. Conditions weren’t ideal to do your first stage rally but despite the little off on the opening stage, he and Jack did a great job and learned a lot. He needs to get some more experience, but this is a good start to his rallying career.”
Frank’s next outing is planned for two weeks’ time at Anglesey for the Lee Holland Memorial Stages Rally, before 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup which gets underway at Monza on April 12/14.