While Broc Parkes and Makoto Tamada chase success for his World Superbike team in the opening rounds of the new season in Australia, Paul Bird will hope for a strong weekend of his own as he takes parts in the Bournemouth-based Rallye Sunseeker.

Bird will miss the trip Down Under to take part in the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship as he seeks to reclaim the title he won back in 2005.

The Cumbrian will be joined by Ian Windress in his Subaru Impreza and will renew his long-standing rivalry with friend Steve Perez - who has just taken delivery of a new Ford Focus WRC for the season ahead.

However, Bird said his 'ageing Subaru' was still up to the job as he seeks a first Sunseeker success.

"I've been away from the sport for a couple of years as we strove to make our Superbike team more competitive and now we are doing that, I can spend a bit more time having a play in my car," Bird said. "Steve's gone out and bought himself a new car to try and beat me but he's going to have to go some to match my ageing Subaru!

"I'll be in touch with the boys in Australia throughout the weekend and I've told them that if the boss can bring the champagne home, I'm expecting them to do so as well!"