Twelve months after finishing as runner-up on his favourite event, Paul Bird had to settle for second position in Barbados once again, this time behind Ulsterman Kris Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, after a brave challenge fell just short on last weekend's SOL Rally.

Driving his regular Ford Focus WRC07, which had been flown in specially for the event, Bird and co-driver Ian Windress were hoping to go one better than 2008 but, despite a good start, trailed Meeke's Subaru WRC S9 by 21secs at the overnight halt on Saturday.

With Sunday's super-fast stages to look forward to, Bird tried to respond and set four fastest times to Meeke's three as they battled it out at speeds of around 200kmh for the lead but, in the end, Meeke's early advantage proved to be enough and he ended up winning by just 16.75secs after two days of action.

"It just doesn't get much better than this; this really is the best rally in the world," Bird remarked after the finish on Sunday night, "The crowds, the organisers, the enthusiasm and the people are just fantastic.

"Of course, I'm disappointed not to win, but we gave it our best shot and to lose to a driver of Kris' quality, who leads the Intercontinental Rally Challenge as Peugeot UK's works driver, isn't too bad. I'm more thrilled that I beat my old mate Steve Perez once again!"