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Cronin looking for change of fortune after Wales setback

April 21st, 2024 4:00 PM

By Martin Walsh

Cronin looking for change of fortune after Wales setback Image
Keith Cronin on his way to winning last month's Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally.

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BY MARTiN WALSH

‘IT’S been a long time since I had a good run on any rally in Wales and this one has been no different.’ That was the frank accessment from Keith Cronin (Ford Fiesta Rally2) at the conclusion of the Rallynuts Severn Valley Rally in Wales, where he and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin had a difficult time, finishing 11th of the British Rally Championship crews. The rally was won by former BRC champion Osian Pryce (Ford Fiesta Rally2), who finished 20 seconds ahead of the similar car of Moira’s William Creighton with series leader Chris Ingram (VW Polo GTi R5) 14.3s further behind in third.

Prior to the rally, Cronin had highlighted his desire to secure a podium finish on what was his first gravel event in over a year. To his credit he was third after the opening albeit short and snappy stage 6.71km stage - where Ingram set the pace
to lead Pryce by 3.2s with Cronin a mere 0.9s further behind in third. Creighton was only 0.3s adrift of Cronin as a 4.4s margin covered the top quartet. On SS2, another short stage (6.02km) Pryce set to pace to eke out a 0.4s lead over Ingram with Cronin, who was fifth fastest through the stage, 6s further behind and 1.7s ahead of Creighton. As Pryce extended his lead over Ingram to 3.2s on the third stage Creighton edged ahead of Cronin in the battle for third, a 1.9s margin separating the Irish pair. The final morning stage Hafren Sweet Lamb (18.06km) didn’t bring any solace for Cronin, who spun and hit a log that appeared to be pulled out on the forest track by a previous car. In an instant, the Ballylickey driver was 13.1s off third place and 31.1s behind rally leader Pryce.

A podium spot was still the target and on SS5, the repeat of morning’s Sarnau test, Cronin posted the second fastest stage time, albeit for Creighton to top the time sheets. The sixth stage Myherin (25.46km) provided an opportunity to make some gain, unfortunately, it was far from the case. Cronin’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 collected a puncture and the Ballylickey/Killarney pair stopped to change the rear right wheel. To add to their woes, the car jack slipped from its position and by the time they were back inside the cockpit of the Fiesta they had lost over seven minutes.

At the stage finish and in terms of the BRC contenders they were down in 12th place. Meanwhile, Creighton had set the best stage time to reel in Ingram for second spot as Pryce led by 13.9s. Pryce went on to claim his first win of the season followed by Creighton, who completed back-to-back second places in the series. Third placed Ingram continues to hold top spot in the series. At the finish, Cronin, who also had a difficult outing on the opening round said, ‘It's been a long time since I had a good run on any rally in Wales, and this one has been no different.’ He tried to explain his troubles. ‘I don't know where we picked it (puncture) up. There were some big rocks in the stage, they were like four- inch stone, you had to drive over it, so I'm only assuming that's where we got it. We didn't touch anything. We had to stop and change it. Everything was going wrong, the car fell off the jack.’ He added, ‘It’s not been a good start to the BRC for us, although the last time we won the championship we had a similar start to the season. I think we need to work on the gravel. We were getting back into it, but I can definitely hit the ground running faster on tarmac because I've just done more of it, I've done so little of gravel rallying over the last few years.’

The BRC resumes at the end of May with the Jim Clark Rally in Scotland, an event (tarmac) that Cronin won two years ago. ‘I like the Jim Clark, hopefully our luck will change there.’ Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin’s campaign in both the BRC and the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship are supported by M Group of Companies, Lyons Motor Group, Shane Casey Electrical Services, Molson Equipment, Pirelli, EARS Motorsport Ireland, Cronin’s Centra (Ballylickey, Union Hall, Leap, Millstreet and Dundrum), Cronin’s HomeValue Hardware, Westlink Service Station and Daybreak Shop, Cremin Coaches, Keohane Seafoods, M-Sport and Wurth Ireland.

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