Gamekeeper Bird shoots down rivals to poach title

James Bird in rallycross action  Picture by Tim Whittington
James Bird in rallycross action Picture by Tim Whittington

Midhurst’s James Bird has won the MSA Supernational Rallycross Championship for the third time in four years. Racing in six of this year’s seven championship events, Bird, 36, who runs his own business as a gamekeeper, won three times to secure the title at the wheel of the Renault ClioSport V6 built and prepared by MB Motors of from Midhurst.

The championship awards five bonus points to the driver setting the fastest time in each event, and Bird gained these in four of his six starts in a campaign that assured him the title after the penultimate round.

The first of Bird’s three wins came in May at the championship’s showcase night race at Blyton in Lincolnshire. A confident win in an event that starts in daylight and concludes at midnight was backed up with the bonus points for fastest time and, added to his second place in the series opener, put Bird into a commanding championship lead.

Bird won again when the championship crossed the channel for round four at Maasmechelen in Belgium, also setting fastest time, and added his third victory at Lydden in Kent on August bank-holiday Monday.

In a rain-lashed event at Knockhill in Scotland, Bird finished fourth, again with the bonus points for fastest time, to put the championship beyond the reach of closest rival York-based Lotus racer Ash Simpson.

“I’ve had a tremendous year, the competition in the championship has been close and there’s been good racing everywhere,” said Bird. “We made changes and improvements to the car before the season and set out to win the championship again this year, so I’m delighted we have won. As well as winning the events and being fastest in four of them, we had 100 per cent reliability with the car so the season could not have been much better.”

Although he skipped the final round, Bird closed his season with an outing in the British Rallycross Grand Prix at Croft, North Yorkshire.

It’s the one time in the year when the two-wheel drive Supernational cars go head-to-head with their four-wheel drive Supercar counterparts and Bird again displayed his championship-winning form, placing 12th overall in the event and highest-placed Supernational racer.

Bird’s third championship came in a year when he returned to racing after a break. With back-to-back championship titles won in 2008 and 2009, Bird took time out in 2010, driving in just one event – which he won.

Bird and his team are not yet sure of their plans for 2012 but hope to be able to defend their title if they can find the commercial backing.