Following his inaugural victory last year in his eighth year of trying, Penrith rally driver Paul Bird successfully retained his Manx Telecom Rally title with a convincing victory around the tricky lanes of the Isle of Man this weekend.
The 2005 ANCRO Champion has had lots of success around the world-famous TT course with his various bike racing teams over the years, including the legendary Joey Dunlop winning his 26th and final TT on one of Bird's bikes in 2000, but up until last year had never won on the hallowed Manx lanes himself despite coming close on numerous occasions.
But for a second year running, he put those demons to rest with a comfortable victory for him and Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick in their Dom Buckley Motorsport-prepared Ford Focus WRC 08 to make it two wins on the trot but it wasn't without its dramas.
Although he led throughout from the very first stage, he was under intense pressure from defending British Rally Champion Keith Cronin who ran him close until he retired his Subaru on the penultimate stage and allowed Bird to take the victory by a comfortable three minutes and twenty seconds after the two-day event.
Indeed, the winning margin could have been higher had it not been for the Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team boss beating the stage bogey on five of the fifteen tests, such were the speeds in the dry conditions but in the end he was pleased with the performance.
After crossing the Douglas finish ramp, Bird said: "We had a problem with the clutch for a couple of stages but apart from that and beating the bogey on some stages, including one by over thirty seconds, we've had a good run.
"I must pay tribute to Keith Cronin who drove brilliantly in a Group N car and was sad to see him go out as he's very much a future World Champion and I'm very impressed with his performance. The Manx has a special place in my heart so it's wonderful to come here and win again; this is very special as I've not had the best of times just recently. This is hopefully a good omen for the forthcoming Barbados Rally which I desperately want to win so that's the next task later this month but for now, I'm taking the team out for a few beers as they've done a fantastic job as always."