In his first rally for six months Paul Bird came back in fine fashion to claim the runners-up spot on the Specsavers Christmas Stages Rally held at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.

Driving the Vent Axia and Kick Energy sponsored Subaru WRC, Bird, who will run the official Kawasaki team in the World Superbike Championship next year, and Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress were up against some of the top drivers in the UK but after a steady start, which involved having no handbrake for the first three stages, the pair started to climb the leaderboard as the day progressed.

As darkness fell Bird knew that a big effort was needed to bump himself up the order and the former double winner of the event in 2002 and 2003 managed to do just that to snatch second - just three seconds ahead of the Nissan Sunny GTI-R of Tony Bardy.

However Bird had no answer for runaway victor Kevin Procter, who led the event from start to finish, but despite conceding victory Bird was reasonably happy with his performance.

"It's been so long since I sat in a rally car I'd forgotten what half the switches did and when we sorted out a couple of minor problems we managed to set some decent times," he reflected. "I need some more time in the car but I'm happy enough with second place today and all credit to Kevin, he was in a class of his own all day and thoroughly deserves his win.

"The plan is now to come back to Croft in three weeks time to do the Cartersport Jack Frost Stages Rally and then I'll have a venture out on gravel somewhere in readiness for Rallye Sunseeker in Bournemouth. What a great little event Ian Jackson and his team put on at Croft and I couldn't believe the size of the crowd!"

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