Former national rally champion Paul Bird overcame an emotional week to record a fifth place finish on the Bournemouth-based Rallye Sunseeker.

Bird, from Penrith, lost his mother Isabel to cancer last week but following Thursday's well attended funeral he vowed to contest the opening round of the 2010 MSA Gravel Rally Championship.

Along with Scottish co driver Kirsty Riddick, who was suffering from suspected glandular fever, Bird suffered a spin on the opening stage and their problems were compounded two stages later when they lost a minute after going off the road.

Holding sixth position, the Kawasaki Superbike racing team boss clawed back some time in the loop of stages around Wareham at half distance to move into contention but couldn't quite do enough to reduce the deficit to fourth placed Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield. As a result Bird had to settle for fifth place overall on the event and with it, fourth place points in the ANCRO-organised series.

"It's been a tough week and I wondered if I should do the event but I'm glad I did," he said. "I couldn't concentrate properly but that's not an excuse. I just made too many mistakes early on and from that point we were playing catch up. Kirsty's not been too well today and that's not helped our cause but I'll chill out tonight and have a few beers and look forward to next weekend's Malcolm Wilson Rally."

Bird will be in action on the Cockermouth-based event next Saturday where he is looking to make it an historic fourth win on his home rally.

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