Cronin leads the charge in Cumbria While reigning champion Keith Cronin leads the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship after one round, any one of around a dozen drivers could jostle him for podium position on the Pirelli International ...
Cronin leads the charge in Cumbria
While reigning champion Keith Cronin leads the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship after one round, any one of around a dozen drivers could jostle him for podium position on the Pirelli International Rally next weekend.
The 2009 Pirelli Star Driver and new co-driver Barry McNulty have gelled with the Pirelli TEG Sport team well, managing some pre-season testing in the unfamiliar Subaru Impreza to lead the first round from the first stage. But the Kielder stages are ultra fast, arguably suiting the Mitsubishi Evo that some of their competition is driving.
It is in the latest Evolution 10 variant Mitsubishi that 1996 British Rally Champion Gwyndaf Evans with co-driver Chris Patterson will mount a challenge to the young Irishmen, their JR Motorsports car's transmission fully repaired after a galling first round retirement.
2009 multiple Fiesta SportTrophy champions Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts are also likely to be quick, but the Fiesta S2000 had fuel pressure problems in Wales while lying second, a fault that has now been resolved. The pair come fresh from Rally Turkey where they lay 19th at the end of the first day.
Inheriting Breen's second place were Alastair Fisher and double BRC champion Rory Kennedy. But they also suffered transmission failure, so will look to maintain the excellent momentum from seven fastest stage times on the more recent Circuit of Ireland Rally where they finished third overall.
Cronin's nearest points rivals Dave Weston Jnr and Ieuan Thomas are in an almost identical Subaru. With an outright win on the Border Counties Rally and second place on Rally North Wales the Ramsport pair is up for a fight and will want to at least repeat their podium experience.
A shock result for 2008 Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould put him third in Wales, but it was an event done on a shoestring for the youngster. However the MSA Team UK member has just had some good news in the form of a GBP10,000 bursary, so he and Craig Drew have put in a last minute entry in their older Impreza.
Pirelli TEG Sport's second crew Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton had a cracking start to the season, helping forge a lead in the MSA British Teams Rally Championship with a fourth place in Wales. Retirement on the Pirelli last year means that they have less experience of the stages though, so a good recce will be essential.
A late string of top three times in Wales by Jonny Greer and Dai Roberts in their Evo 9 must put them in the hunt for overall honours in Cumbria. The young driver was fifth here last year and fifth on round one, but with only a handful of weeks between events, their good pace near the finish should carry forward.
Rounding off the top ten are David Bogie/Kevin Rae and Daniel SigurÃo.arson/Ã^Asta SigurÃo.ardÃ"ttir, Bogie having taken third place in 2009, while former Icelandic Champion SigurÃo.arson has previous experience of the Carlisle-based event in his JR Motorsports team Mitsubishi.
Outside the top ten but certainly worthy of note in four wheel drive cars are former Citroen front-runner Jason Pritchard and African Pirelli Star Driver Peter Horsey. Pritchard improved on every stage in Wales while Kenyan Horsey will hope for a better weekend than this weekend's Rally Turkey where his car was destroyed by fire.
In the classes Elfyn Evans and Andrew Edwards will be hard to beat in R3, taking class victory on their Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship debut as well as beating the newer R2 Fiestas in the Fiesta SportTrophy. The Welsh youngster also leads the fight for the prestigious MSA British Teams Rally Championship ahead of Mark Donnelly.
Class R2 will be hard to call though, as Finnish duo Jarkko Nikara/Petri Nikara were stunning on the Renault Clio R2's UK debut, overcoming teething problems with the brand new car to even set a top en time on the final Welsh stage.
Citroen C2R2 Max pair Mark Donnelly and Paddy Robinson were the class of the class in Wales, taking victory in the Citroen Racing Trophy as well as R2, also adding a win on his Irish CRT debut a couple of weeks ago.
Despite not being registered for the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, WRC star PG Anderson will be out in a Fiesta R2 to battle it out with the rest, certain to impress in the new shape Fiesta.
Another star to watch in the two wheel drive category will be Mikko Pajunen with co-driver Janne Perala. The Finnish crew were a joy to watch in Wales, wringing every ounce out of the Suzuki to win the Swift Sport Cup and class R1 by a country mile.
PIRELLI INTERNATIONAL RALLY
The Pirelli International Rally is based entirely at the Carlisle Racecourse from where it starts at 18.30, heading out for three stages in Kershope Forest. The event re-starts at 07.00 on Saturday with three loops of three stages, before returning to Carlisle for the ceremonial finish just before 19.00.
SKY SPORTS TV COVERAGE
Coverage of the classes from round one of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship plus a preview of the Pirelli International Rally is on Sky Sports 4 on Tuesday 20th April at 18.30.