Evans wins rally; Cronin retains BRC title There were two winners from this weekend's International Rally Yorkshire: Gwyndaf Evans/Claire Mole took overall honours on the Scarborough-based gravel event, but Keith Cronin took his second ...
Evans wins rally; Cronin retains BRC title
There were two winners from this weekend's International Rally Yorkshire: Gwyndaf Evans/Claire Mole took overall honours on the Scarborough-based gravel event, but Keith Cronin took his second straight victory in the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, the first for his co-driver Barry McNulty.
Evans' win was a relatively easy one, but only after Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts rolled their Fiesta following a frustrating mechanical gremlin, which had already dropped the Irishman behind the 1996 British Rally Champion.
At the finish on Scarborough seafront Evans commented, "It was a difficult rally for everyone, It was so easy to make a mistake, but I'll treasure this win with the others this year. I'm delighted for the JRM team who have all worked really hard all season."
The victory was Evans' first on Rally Yorkshire, which has only been part of the championship in its present guise for less than ten years. But it was extra special for BRC returnee and Evan's third co-driver this season Claire Mole, who chalked up her first ever British Rally Championship event win.
Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Championship / Pirelli Star Driver
Second place went to a delighted Alastair Fisher/Rory Kennedy, who completed a JR Motorsports one-two as team-mates to Evans for the first time. The result was enough to secure the Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Championship title for the Chesterfield based rally team.
Fisher's fast but mature drive also netted him the Rally Yorkshire Pirelli Star Driver (PSD) nomination, adding his name to the list of six event finalists who will battle it out for a funded drive in the 2011 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship. As an added bonus, Fisher took top honours in the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge on the event.
2010 Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Champion
Third place was more than enough for Cronin, who only needed to finish the 85 mile event in sixth place or better to seal his second BRC title. At the squally Marine Drive finish he was evidently relived to get to the end.
"It has been a difficult event, but I'm not sure the Championship win has sunk in yet," he said. "The grip levels on every stage were unpredictable, but we backed right off from our usual pace to make sure we got to the end."
Cronin's path to victory has seen the 24-year old from West Cork take wins on just two events this season, Rally North Wales and Rally Isle of Man. This coupled with a second and two thirds meant that his retirement from the lead of the Pirelli Rally within sight of the finish, will no longer haunt the 2009 Pirelli Star Driver winner.
He becomes he first ever Irishman to take two British Rally titles, having broken a 35 year drought last year, Billy Coleman being the only other Irishman to take the title in 1974. Cronin is also the second youngest driver to take and retain the title in consecutive years, beaten by mere months to the accolade by nineties BRC star and 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae.
Finishing well in fourth was the Rally Northern Ireland Pirelli Star Driver nominee Daniel McKenna with co-driver Andrew Grennan, the pair delighted to have clicked so quickly on their first gravel event in a four wheel drive car. Their hired Mitsubishi was not only new to them, but the Irishman chose to use a left hand drive model in preparation for the PSD shootout next month.
Another mature drive came from Welsh youngster Jason Pritchard with experienced Robbie Durant alongside. The pair had plenty of hairy moments on the incredibly slippery North Yorkshire forest tracks, but managed to reach the finish with only cosmetic damage to the Impreza's bumper. The result not only means they are one of just three crews to finish all six Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship events this year, but a podium finish on the Isle of Man and string of top five finishes leaves Pritchard third in the overall tables and Durant runner up to McNulty. [AUDIO]
Certainly worthy of note in sixth and seventh place were Daniel Sigurdarsona / A Sigurdardottir and Alan Cookson/Julian Wilkinson respectively. The Icelandic brother and sister pairing survived a big spin in the dark of Friday night, smashing off their all-important lamp pod, then losing power steering for several stages on Saturday. Their recovery to the top six is testament to the crew's persistence and joy at a return to gravel and leaves Sigurdardottir top Evo Challenge co-driver.
After Cookson's monumental crash on the Isle of Man, Rally Yorkshire saw the welcome return of "Mooriel", the Friesian cow liveried Impreza. The event's eight stages witnessed crew and cow/car quickly rebuild their confidence throughout the rally for a solid finish.
Craig Breen's eventual recovery to eighth place in the BRC standings was certainly not how the youngster wanted to end his season, a series of non finishes wrecking any chance of championship glory almost from the opening stage back in Wales in March.
Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge
Retiring from the rally was the championship leader Jonny Greer with co-driver Dai Roberts. Their season had been the model of consistency, finishing every event despite the usual minor rally glitches. But the conditions caught out the Ulsterman and he rolled off the road, his event ending with the car pinned on its side against a tree. Despite the retirement Greer wins the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge and with it a place in the PSD shootout.
Also exiting the fray were front-running Subaru crew Adam Gould and Craig Drew who pushed hard early on, only to have a suspension arm sideline them on Saturday lunchtime.
The battle for two wheel drive honours went to Mikko Pajunen and Janne Perala, the Finns also placing ninth of the championship registered finishers. Their change to a Fiesta R2 car did mean they couldn't seal the Swift Sport Cup, but the move to a more powerful car obviously suited them, overcoming a lack of grip in the mud and continuing to impress.
Citroen Racing Trophy
Rounding off the top ten were Robbie Barrable and Damien Connolly in their Citroen C2R2 Max. After the retirement of Citroen Racing Trophy rival Mark Donnelly with transmission problems, the Irishman was able to cruise to the finish without incident. The win secures both the overall one-make series title and by virtue of being top Junior driver, also puts him in the PSD shootout in October.
Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy / BRC Juniors
Top placed Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy crew yet again were Elfyn Evans and Andrew Edwards. The astonishing duo's astounding record of seven FST victories from seven events helps prove why the Welsh pair are worthy winners of both the one-make series and the hotly contested Dulux Trade MSA British Junior Rally Championship. Whilst Evans junior admitted it was amongst the worst day's rallying he had experienced, with mistakes and time-loss, news of the Junior award more than made up for it at the finish.
Swift Sport Cup
Having only joined the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship on round three, Tom Clark has proved that being seventeen and the youngest driver in the championship should not be a hindrance. Despite an indiscretion with the scenery re-arranging the front of his Suzuki, he and new co-driver Alistair Wyllie did exactly what was required of them. Merely getting to the end of the tricky event has secured not only the Swift Sport Cup title, but as the Junior one-make Champion too, Clark becomes the final PSD shootout finalist.
Brothers Steve and Tony Graham already have a title from the 2010 season, that of Diesel Rally Cup Champions. But despite being the final classified finishers on Rally Yorkshire, that was enough to secure the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship Rally 3 class win after a slippery but trouble free run in their diesel Astra.
Although another British Rally Championship season is now over, the action continues behind closed doors next month for the Pirelli Star Driver shootout, followed by the end of year awards ceremony.
However even those events will almost certainly not satisfy drivers and co-drivers new and old alike who are already looking forward to February 2011. Just 151 days away is Rallye Sunseeker International, a brand new event to the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship which will launch another cracking year.
Sky Sports TV Coverage
In the meantime you can catch Greenlight Television's coverage of this year's final round on Sky Sports 2 at 21:30 this Monday 28th September. The programme is repeated on Sky Sports 3 the following day.