KEITH Cronin is back in contention for the Prestone British Rally Championship after he annexed maximum points on the Ypres Rally in Belgium, round four of the series.
Co-driven by Killarney’s Mikie Galvin, the Ballylickey ace – on-board the M-Sport prepared and run Ford Fiesta R5 – took his first set of maximum points in the series since 2012.
Given that it was his first time on this very specialised event, it was an impressive outing for Cronin, who also won the Tony Pond Award as the event marked the first overseas round in the 59-year history of the BRC.
The West Cork man finished seventh overall in a rally won by Kevin Abbring – but Cronin got what he wanted: his BRC title bid back on track with maximum points.
Cronin, in his DMACK shod Fiesta, was on the pace from the very start; he was fourth fastest on the opening stage. His main aim was that of championship points and he concentrated on that particular aspect, his Fiesta R5 had the latest Evo2 upgrade and he seemed to revel in his surroundings.
Not surprisingly, his main challenger was championship leader Fredrik Ahlin (Skoda Fabia R5). Cronin had a problem with the pop-off valve and it was a little disconcerting.
Swedish ace Ahlin edged 5.5 seconds ahead on Friday’s penultimate stage only to slide off the road on the night’s final stage. He re-joined the rally on Saturday’s second and final leg and claimed sixth position of the BRC contenders.
Cronin overshot a junction and ended up in a field. Luckily, the time loss wasn’t of any real consequence. At the overnight halt he led Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) by just over 20 seconds.
Earlier, Derry’s Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan crashed heavily on the second stage that also claimed Scotland’s David Bogie (Skoda).
During Saturday’s stages Cronin stayed out of trouble and secured maximum points to re-ignite his bid to win a fourth British title.
Mechanical issues ended Tom Cave’s (Hyundai i20 R5) rally, Henry rolled some six stages from the finish and fellow British driver Matt Edwards (Fiesta R5) netted second, over a minute behind Cronin.
Osian Pryce (Fiesta R5) was the third BRC finisher, he moved into the lead of the series.
The event itself was won by WRC star Kevin Abbring (Peugeot 208 T16) and his Belgian co-driver Pieter Tsjoen.
Afterwards, a delighted Cronin said: ‘It feels really good to win this tough event. We had a good fight with Fredrik (Ahlin) until he went off and when that happened it changed the whole approach to the rally.
‘I was very cautious and stayed in the middle of the road and we got the result. It’s such a famous rally and to get a good result is brilliant.
‘Coming into this round, we thought we were out of the championship challenge but now we are in a fighting chance and things are looking better.’
The next championship outing for Cronin is this weekend’s Nicky Grist Rally in Wales that will be followed by the Derry based Ulster Rally (August 18th/19th) with the double round Isle of Man Rally (September 14th/16th) completing the series that will be decided on the best six scores from the eight rounds.
Top Prestone BRC Finishers: 1. K Cronin/M Galvin (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 25m 00.3s; 2. M Edwards/D Garrod (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 18.1s; 3. O Pryce/D Furniss (Ford Fiesta R5) +2m 29.9s; 4. J Anderson/Ross Whittock (Ford Fiesta R5) +5m 55.6s; 5. R Yates/C Williamson (Ford Fiesta R5 +10m 54.7s; 6. F Ahlin/Torstien Erikson (Skoda Fabia R5) +11m 26.0s.
Prestone MSA British Rally Championship Drivers Standings (After Round 4): 1. O Pryce 66 points; 2. F Ahlin 63pts; 3. K Cronin 49pts; 4. D Bogie 37pts; 5. M Edwards 36pts; 6. M McCormack 30pts.
Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC), who was co-driven by Bandon’s Karl Atkinson, claimed his fifth consecutive win in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship on the Waterford-based Dooley’s Hotel Raven’s Rock Rally, round five of the eight-round series.
Moffett can clinch the Vard Memorial Trophy on his next Triton outing.
The winners finished 18.1 seconds ahead of the similar car of Clonmel’s Roy White and his Dromtarriffe co-driver James O’Brien.
World Rally star, Waterford’s Craig Breen in a Mark 2 Ford Escort, co-driven by Patrick Crowe, were two minutes and 37.3 seconds further behind in third.
In Group N, David Guest finished 11.6 seconds behind Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi), who also netted the Triton Showers Drive of the Day award.