Although second spot was snatched away on the final stage, Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin was satisfied with third place on his debut in the PCRS Hyundai i20 R5 on the Pirelli Rally, the opening round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship in Carlisle.
Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin finished just 1.3 seconds behind the Skoda Fabia R5 of Rhys Yates as Welsh ace Matt Edwards in the M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5 took a 20.5 second victory.
On the opening stage Cronin punched in the best time and led Derry’s Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan by 6.4 seconds with Yates a fraction of a second further behind. Edwards was fourth, 10.5 seconds off top spot. There was early drama when former British champion David Bogie upended his Skoda Fabia R5; luckily neither him nor his co-driver John Rowan was injured.
Edwards was quickest on the following pair of stages leading first by 6.4 seconds and then by four as Cronin continued to learn the traits of the Hyundai in addition to the characteristics of the Michelin tyres he was using for the first time.
Quickest on the first run through Whitesike, the Ballylickey ace then cut the deficit to a mere second with Yates 14.6 seconds further adrift. McCormack lost ground due to a transmission problem. A confident Edwards set the pace on stages five and six and moved 13 seconds ahead of Cronin, who lost vital time on S.S. 6 when he had to reverse to negotiate a chicane that was approached with too much speed.
The error brought Yates within 3.4 seconds. As Edwards stretched his advantage on the penultimate stage, Yates closed the gap to Cronin to two seconds. On the penultimate stage he did enough to dislodge Cronin to claim second by 1.3 seconds. Edwards went on to claim his maiden BRC win while McCormack nursed his ailing Skoda to fourth despite gearbox troubles.
Afterwards, Cronin said: “I was a bit disappointed to lose out on the last stage but everything on the car was great, maybe I was a little rusty and I need more seat time. Compared to the first three events last year I feel we have a better start to build on this year. Hopefully before Ypres (Round 2) we can fine-tune things and get us ready for the tarmac surfaces and go forward.”
Meanwhile, Citroen pair Kris Meeke and Craig Breen were out of luck on Rally Argentina, round five of the World Championship. Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle were in third place entering the final stage of Saturday’s leg but hit a rock and were forced to stop and change the wheel. They eventually finished seventh but netted a point from the Power Stage.
Meanwhile, Breen was sixth until he rolled his Citroen on S.S. 11. He made it back to service but the roll cage was damaged and he had to retire. Estonian Ott Tanak (Toyota Yaris WRC) won the event, 37.7 seconds ahead of the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville with the Hyundai of Dani Sordo a further 38 seconds behind. Championship leader Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC) was fourth.
Elsewhere, in the British F4 Championship, Cork racer Luca Allen had a best finish of eighth in the three-race weekend at Donington Park.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved