KEITH Cronin’s bid for a record-equalling fifth British Rally Championship title ended in the recent Trackrod Rally Yorkshire. His nemesis, Welsh ace Osian Pryce, won the event to secure his fourth set of maximum points and duly clinch a maiden title.
Pryce, on board the Melvyn Evans Motorsport VW Polo GTi and co-driven by Killarney’s Noel O’Sullivan, led all through and finished the six-stage rally 20.4 seconds ahead of the similar car of Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin.
The stakes were high and prior to the event, the penultimate round of the series. Cronin was aware he had to take event victory in order to set up a final decider in next month’s final round in Wales.
On the Friday night’s first and only stage Cronin finished the Dalby test 5.2 seconds behind Pryce, the Ballylickey man content enough following his accident on the previous round.
However, he also knew that he had to exert pressure on Pryce right from the start of the Saturday’s five stages. But, the 13.67km Crompton stage had major consequences.
‘Disaster, I spun and had an overshoot in there,’ Cronin said at the stage finish.
The indiscretions knocked him down to third and 27.8 seconds behind rally leader Pryce. Londoner Ruari Bell (Skoda Fabia R5) slotted into second spot, 24.5 seconds behind Pryce, who had control of his title destiny.
Indeed, the 28-year-old Welsh ace continued to punch in the best stage times and by SS 4 (final service) he had extended his lead over Bell to 28.5 seconds with Cronin just 1.9 seconds further behind.
Cronin was best through Langdale, at 21.24km, the longest stage of the rally and also on the final stage but it wasn’t enough and he finished runner-up as Pryce celebrated victory in both the rally and the championship. Bell, who spun on the last stage, was third.
As for the future, Cronin remarked ‘I need to talk with those involved and take it from there. I suppose until this year, I hadn’t done a lot (rallying) but it was encouraging to be on pace. I can look back and see where I left it (the championship win) but that’s rallying. There’s no doubt, the accident in Wales didn’t help.’
Cronin can also reflect on the opening round where he lost out to Pryce by 5.4 seconds after which he made the transition to Pirelli tyres and victory in the Jim Clark Rally. He added, ‘I will make a decision about 2023 as soon as possible.’
The 2023 BRC dates are set to be announced before the end of October and The Southern Star understands it could include the West Cork Rally.
RESULTS: 1. O. Pryce/N. O’Sullivan (VW Polo GTi R5) 54m. 12.7s; 2. K. Cronin/M. Galvin (VW Polo GTi R5)+20.4s; R. Bell/M. Freeman (Skoda Fabia R5)+26.6s; 4. J. Williams/D. Roberts (Hyundai i20 R5)+32.9s; 5. G. Pearson/D. Furniss (Skoda Fabia R5)+1m. 13.6s; 6. E. Kelly/C. Mohan (Ford Fiesta Rally4)+7m. 27.5s.