Paul Bird saw his hopes of victory on the Pirelli Tour of Cumbria fall just short after a scintillating performance on round three of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship in Kielder Forest.

Driving the Vent Axia, Kick Energy, backed Ford Focus WRC on his local event, Bird and Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress were leading having set fastest time on the opening three stages in the dry and dusty conditions.

However the pair overshot a chicane on the Chirdonhead stage which cost them over 50 seconds, and despite an incredible fight back which included setting fastest times on all four stages of the second loop, Bird fell an agonising 4.6 seconds short of victory.

His pain wasn't eased when a stage was cancelled meaning he had less opportunity to claw back the lost time so had to settle for runner-up spot and with it important points in the Championship.

"I'm disappointed to miss out on the win but I have to say that's the best I've ever driven," said Bird who was celebrating his 42nd birthday on the Carlisle-based event. "The stall coupled with having no launch control on the final three stages didn't help but now I feel at home in the car and I'm delighted to have set fastest time on all of the stages bar one. Roll on the Manx and we'll see what we can do on tarmac!"