CUMBRIAN race ace Paul Bird took the honours at the Ludlow-based Woodpecker Stages Rally, getting to grips with the Shropshire forests and Welsh Marches in his Ford Focus WRC.

And there was success for the local pairing of Dave and Toby Brick who took the honours in the 1400 class.

Bird was only starting his second rally since serving a two-year drugs ban but took the title with some excellent driving that saw him finish 30 seconds ahead of Callum Black and Elliott Edmondson in their Fiesta R5. Last year’s winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson rounded off the top three in their Fiesta WRC.

A field of 150 took part in the gruelling event with Bird taking the podium at Ludlow Racecourse. It was the second time he had won the event.

He said: “It’s been a fantastic rally and the stages have been great – they have really suited the Focus and me to be honest. Two years is a long time out of the sport but I did a rally in Scotland a few weeks ago which eased me back in.”

Ludlow favourite Shaun Gardener was forced to withdraw before the event, leaving the honour of first local home to the Ford Escort Mk2 pilot Roger Chilman from Hereford who, alongside Bryan Thomas, took 14th overall and scooped the Historic category and two-wheel drive honours.

John Perrott and Dan Petrie from Leominster rounded off the top 20.

The Woodpecker Stages, which are sponsored by Eventsigns, is organised by the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club.