Cronin snatches Pirelli victory on final stage With their car totally destroyed by fire, the retirement of Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh left another titanic fight between Keith Cronin/Gregg Shinnors and Mark Higgins/Bryan Thomas for victory on the ...
Cronin snatches Pirelli victory on final stage
With their car totally destroyed by fire, the retirement of Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh left another titanic fight between Keith Cronin/Gregg Shinnors and Mark Higgins/Bryan Thomas for victory on the Pirelli International Rally. The penultimate stage saw Cronin take 7.8 seconds off Higgins' 10.2 second lead at the final service, leaving another nail biting final stage in prospect.
As the results finally came through, there was a cheer from the crowd gathered around the computer terminal at rally HQ, Cronin and Shinnors taking their second successive victory in their debut season in the MSA British Rally Championship.
The winning margin was just two seconds, the 22 year-old Irish driver snatching 4.4 from Pirelli TEG Sport driver Higgins on the 8.7 mile Valley stage. The winning margin is even closer than on round one back in March, where Cronin stopped the clocks nine seconds before Higgins.
After Phillip and Simon Morrow's excellent run ended stuck in a Kielder ditch, Team JRM Lico's David Bogie/Kevin Rae took an excellent third place in their nearly new Mitsubishi Evo 10, having only driven their 2008 Evo Challenge prize once before. Nearly a minute and a half back from the leading pair, the young Scot headed Northern Ireland's Alastair Fisher by a mere 1.8 seconds.
The newcomer to four wheel drive had multiple BRC Champion Rory Kennedy alongside, the pair incredibly close to taking third overall, having taken eighteen seconds off Bogie in the final test.
Jonathan Greer and Anthony O'Conaill were happy enough with their progress on the rally, although slightly disappointed that they were pipped for fourth by Fisher. The pair might struggle to make the next round though, as the team has several cars hired out overseas and may be short of manpower.
Dave Weston Junior re-united with regular co-driver Dave Robson for the event, taking sixth place behind Greer. The young Scot declared it a good weekend overall with more miles under his belt in the new car, although still struggling on the faster sections.
Icelandic Rally Champion Daniel Siguardason managed seventh place in Stuart Jones' brand new Evo 10, the amiable character also using Jones' co-driver Andy Bull. The car looked slightly second hand at the finish though, after he put it on its side, not losing too much time on his preferred gravel surface.
One of several newcomers to the British Rally Championship, Chris Firth, set some good times and thoroughly enjoyed the event in his older spec Subaru. The only damage to the car caused when a marshal misunderstood a request to re-affix a flapping bumper, instead trying to remove it completely.
(Coverage from round 2 of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Pirelli International Rally, will be on Sky Sports 3 on Monday 20th April at 8pm. For full TV listings click HERE)
MSA British Teams' Rally Championship
Bogie's result coupled with his stand-in team-mate Siguardason seventh place means that Team JRM Lico overhaul Pirelli TEG Sport to lead the MSA British Teams' Rally Championship by eleven points. TEG driver and reigning Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould's retirement meant only Higgins scored, but the team still remain ahead of Revolution Wheels. Rob Swann opened their 2009 account after swapping to an older specification car, as his N14 is being shipped to Barbados shortly after the Pirelli. His team-mate Euan Thorburn failed to score after an oil pipe caused a small fire, ending his rally.
BRC Classes and Cups
Rally 3 & MSA British Junior Rally Championship
It was a successful rally for the Irish, Craig Breen and his Welsh co-driver joining Cronin on the top podium step for their excellent Rally 3 class win. Not only did the youngster fend off all other two wheel drive opposition, but he secured victory in the Fiesta Sport Trophy earlier in the day when the BRC Challenge finished at lunch time.
Not content with these two feats, he took the final top ten position overall in the BRC and with it the top MSA Junior points too, moving him into the lead of the prestigious category. His fantastic result attracted the attention of the Pirelli Star Driver judges and he adds another Irish flag to the list of finalists in the BRC's Pirelli Star Driver final; the winner of which will take a fully funded drive in the 2010 British Rally Championship.
After a stunning drive by Finnish ace Matti Rantanen was cut short with a crash earlier on, it was an all Fiesta Rally 3 podium; Kyle Orr and Rob Fagg taking runner up spot in the two litre BRC class. They struggled on the final stages, but the fuel pump maladies were not enough to drop them into the clutches of Manxmen Martyn Jones and Kris Killip, who ended the day pleased with their gains in confidence.
Rally 2 & Citroen Racing Trophy
In an almost all Irish clean Sweep, the Northern Irish had a look in as well in the form of Marty McCormack. He and co-driver Phil Clarke took victory in both Rally 2 and the Citroen Racing Trophy, enduring huge amounts of dust inside the car to cruise to a four minute lead at the finish in Carlisle.
Mark Gamble/Steve Link's car sounded decidedly unhealthy at the finish, the exhaust that had been threatening to fall off all day eventually letting go on the penultimate stage. The cheerful Wolverhampton driver was pleased with his performance despite the problems, stating that being reasonably close to the higher spec Max Kit cars was encouraging.
Jason Pritchard took third in both categories, his excellent pace on Saturday negated by spending over half an hour in a ditch on stage two of the rally. Thankfully for the Welshman, International timing meant he stayed in the rally, but he occupies the very last finisher's place in the BRC taking 30th overall.
Rally 1 & Swift Sport Cup
The only non Suzuki in the Rally 1 class within the BRC is the Civic of another Irishmen Joseph McGonigle and Patrick Brides. It was looking like an Irish whitewash until the pair spent seven minutes in a Kielder ditch on the second of Saturday's stages.
This left the battle for Swift Sport Cup and Rally 1 honours the same, Luke Pinder & Peter Scott having pulled clear of the chasing Suzukis on the four stages. Unfortunately he went off on stage six, leaving the way clear for another scrap between Australia and the UK West Midlands. Aussie Molly Taylor and Jemma Bellingham traded times with Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor right up to the penultimate Kershope test, where the Midlander had an engine mount break.
Taylor was certainly surprised to take the class win for the second time, 22 year-old Manxman David Harrison delighted to be elevated to second with his co-driver Glyn Thomas after rear suspension problems. Gordon Nichol & Emma Morrison overcame problems with their notes again to take third, McGonigle eventually finishing fourth.
Diesel Rally Cup
To further add to the Irish theme on the Pirelli International Rally, Lancashire domiciled Irishman Fin McCaul recovered after poor stages on Friday to overhaul diesel rivals Steve and Tony Graham. His win was all the more pleasing as he couldn't understand his lack of early pace and needed the points after a non-finish in Wales.