IT was a memorable weekend for the Cronin Motorsport dynasty with Keith and his younger brothers, Robert and Colin, all winning on their respective rally and karting outings.
Keith secured a vital victory in the Voyonic Grampian Rally in Scotland, round four of the British Rally Championship, to regain control of his destiny in his bid for a record-equalling five British Rally Championship wins.
In Tynagh, in round four of the Motorsport Ireland Karting Championships, Colin won the IAME X30 category to move in the lead of the series with two events remaining. His older brother Robert took his first-ever win in a round of the Rotax Senior Max Championship to move within ten points of the championship top spot.
Prior to the Grampian Rally, Keith underlined the importance of taking a win even though he led his arch rival Welsh ace Osian Pryce by 11 points. However, with the series based on the best five from seven events and given that Pryce already has two wins to his credit before last weekend, Cronin’s concern was understandable.
But with a sterling performance the Ballylickey ace and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin took their VW Polo GTi R5 to a strong victory. They led all through the six-stage event. They finished 21 seconds ahead of the similar car of their title rivals Welshman Osian Pryce, who had Killarney’s Noel O’Sullivan calling the notes. Londoner Ruari Bell and co-driver Max Freeman (Skoda Fabia R5) were eight seconds further behind in third following a final stage incident.
Cronin could be forgiven for thinking he was close to home with the first stage in the Kincardineshire forests bearing the familiar sounding name of Durris. There was no hesitation as he powered the VW Polo to a three-second stage win over the promising Bell (Skoda Fabia R5), whom he was hoping would split him from title rival Pryce, who was a further second behind.
Growing in confidence, he emerged from the Drumtochty test with a ten-second lead, but Pryce was installed in second. Cronin remarked that he wasn’t taking any risks but the dust from Pryce’s VW Polo, which was running at number one, lingered in the Scottish air. Midway through and with fastest time on Finglenny, Cronin extended his lead margin to 16 seconds.
Bell and Pryce took three seconds from the Ballylickey ace on SS 4 (Scare Hill) to cut Cronin’s advantage to 13 seconds. At the re-group, Cronin said: ‘It was a good loop, I had a good run on SS 3 but was probably a bit too cautious on SS 4. If it were a tarmac rally you could manage it (the lead) but on gravel, there could be a rock on the road and a puncture. There’s a long way to go yet.’
Cronin set his fourth fastest stage time of the day on the penultimate stage (Strathgyle Wood) as he added a second to his lead with Bell continuing in second spot, much to Cronin’s advantage in the BRC title bid. Drama unfolded on the final stage (Hurlie Bog) when Bell slid off the road and into a ditch, hitting a tree.
He lost time and second place ,as Pryce took advantage to claim the runner-up spot. Cronin sealed a fine win with the best time on the stage to record a 21-second victory.
‘It’s great to get the win,’ Cronin said.
‘As I said at the start we really needed the win especially as we are heading into Wales for the next round. He (Pryce) will be tough to beat there. We made a good start today and were able to manage it. It's my first win in the BRC on gravel for quite a while (Pirelli International in April 2012) so that was good too. Everything worked really well, Mikie and all the team.
We made a few changes from the last rally and they obviously worked. It’s been a great day for us.’
Meanwhile, in karting, in round four of the Motorsport Ireland series in Tynagh, County Galway, it was also a successful outing for both Colin and Robert Cronin.
In the Junior X30, Colin was in sensational form, winning the first heat, third in the second heat from 18th on the grid before going on to win the pre-final.
In the final he took the chequered flag ahead of Dubliner Michael Gray to move into the lead of the series ahead of the final two rounds. Clonakilty’s Ronan Hennessy dropped to 15th following a bumper penalty.
Meanwhile, in the Rotax Senior Max, Robert won the opening heat, was sixth in heat two and took victory over Ben McFall in the final where he led from start to finish.
The points garnered have moved him to third in the series. He is ten points off top spot.
It was also a significant victory as it was his first-ever win in the category. Clonakilty’s Aidan Hennessy finished 13th.
In the Cadets, a bumper penalty relegated Ballymakeery’s Keith Grant to 14th.