KEITH Cronin was relatively pleased with his second place finish in last weekend’s Malcolm Wilson Rally in Cumbria as he began his quest to land a record-equalling fifth British Rally Championship title win.
With regular co-driver Killarney’s Mikie Galvin calling the notes, they brought their VW Polo GTi R5 home 53.5 seconds behind the works Ford Fiesta Rally2 of French duo Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria.
Heavy snowfalls meant that the whole itinerary of the eight-stage rally had to be revised with the new schedule resulting in a five-stage event and a delayed start on Saturday.
Bearing the No. 38 decals, Cronin ran third on the road behind top seed and WRC driver Fourmaux and the Ford Puma Rally1 of Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis. On the opening Greystoke stage Cronin occupied third, 3.8s behind Fourmaux, who trailed rally leader James Williams (Ford Fiesta Rally2) by a tenth of a second.
As Cronin traversed the Grizedale South stage, he caught up with Serderidis but the Greek driver didn’t pull over.
Indeed, he spun later and denied Cronin the opportunity to get past. Cronin reckoned the episode cost him at least 25 seconds.
A fastest stage time on Grizedale North illustrated what could have been, however a problem on the penultimate stage Greystoke2 cost him some 20 seconds when the power steering failed, ending his challenge.
The Tom Gahan Motorsport team sorted the problem at the final service and Cronin was able to secure second spot.
‘We would have been there, or thereabouts, only for catching the car on the second stage and then the power steering problem,’ Cronin said.
‘It’s really good to have the World Championship guys here and to be on pace with them when things were going well. It was really tricky, especially on the first pass, I was kind of guessing where the ice was, but we got through it. It’s a good result.’
Cronin added: ‘Adrien (Fourmaux) has probably done more rallying this year than we will do all year. It’s our first rally in six months, hopefully we can keep it going and get to the next one (Jim Clark Rally, May 26-27) and see from there.’
Having chosen the rally as his ‘Joker’ round, Fourmaux collected an additional five championship points.
Provisional BRC Points after Round 1: A. Fourmaux 30 points; 2. K. Cronin 18 pts; 3. E. Payne 15pts; 4. J. Williams 12 pts; 5. C. Black 10 pts; 6. G. Pearson 8 pts; 7. E. Kelly 6 pts.