BY MARTIN WALSH
On only their second outing in this year’s British Rally Championship, Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin took their Hankook liveried Ford Fiesta Rally2 to fourth overall in the Scottish-based Grampian Rally, the third round of the series.
The six stage, 44 mile event near Aberdeen, was won by M-Sport’s chief test driver Matthew Wilson (Ford Fiesta Rally2), who finished 20 seconds ahead of the VW Polo GTi of Welsh ace Osian Pryce and his Killarney co-driver Noel O’Sullivan.
Wilson was quickest through the opening stage where he finished three seconds ahead of Pryce. Pre-event championship leader Matt Edwards (VW Polo GTi) and Rhys Yates (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) tied for third - four seconds further behind with Cronin slotting into fifth overall, ten seconds off the rally lead.
However, four time British champion Cronin was only six seconds off the top stage time for S.S. 2 and after the opening three stages held fifth place - twenty seconds behind leader Wilson but only a second shy of Yates.
Reigning champion Edwards was best through S.S. 4 but his VW Polo GTi developed a misfire towards the stage end that eventually forced him out prior to the sixth and final stage.
Wilson took victory ahead of Pryce while Cronin and Yates were level on time as they entered the final stage with Yates getting the verdict by a single second.
Afterwards, Cronin said: ‘From the last event (Nicky Grist Rally) we have made a bit of a jump, we are going in the right direction. I am fine on the high speed stuff but I think I have a bit of work to do on the slower stuff, getting out of the corners.
‘It is a set-up tweak that we need really. We were second fastest on the second stage, it was a real fast flowing stage.’
The short nature of the event didn’t really suit Cronin.
‘By comparison to rallies at home, we still haven’t done a day’s rallying, but we’ve got to keep building.’
Cronin’s next championship event is the Trackrod Rally (September 24/25) and that will be some sixty miles of stages.
Cronin’s NPL Rally Hire and Preparation run Fiesta that also enjoys support from the Michael O'Brien Group of Companies, Rentokil Initial, Cremin Coaches, Cronin's Centra, Cronin's Homevalue and M-Sport, ran faultlessly throughout.
Elsewhere, Inchigeelagh’s co-driver Eamonn Creedon partnered Meath’s Brian Brady (Ford Fiesta Rally4) to third overall in the Junior category where early pacesetter Ruairi Bell retired his Fiesta Rally4 with an electrical issue.