Triple British rally champion Keith Cronin from Ballylickey, with co-driver Killarney’s Mikie Galvin, are back into contention for this season’s Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) as they annexed top points in the Ypres Rally in Belgium, the first overseas round in the 59-year history of the BRC.
The event itself was won by WRC star Kevin Abbring (Peugeot 208 T16) and his Belgian co-driver Pieter Tsjoen.
Cronin led the BRC contingent from the opening stage on Friday. His M-Sport-run DMACK-backed Fiesta R5 also benefited from the Evo2 upgrade, and was actually fourth overall against vastly more seasoned Ypres competitors.
As Cronin, despite some issues with the pop-off valve, stretched his lead over his BRC rivals, the closest challenge came from series leader Fredrik Ahlin (Skoda Fabia R5), who moved 5.5 seconds in front on the day’s penultimate stage.
However, he put his Skoda off the road on the night’s final stage. He rejoined the rally on Saturday’s 13 stages and claimed sixth place of the BRC contenders.
Cronin had one moment of drama when he overshot into a field, but the time loss was minimal.
At the overnight halt he led Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) by some 20 seconds. Derry’s Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan and Scotland’s David Bogie (Skoda) crashed on the second stage.
Saturday’s second leg brought a drop in temperature and some light rain.
Nevertheless, Cronin showed great composure as he concentrated on securing maximum points. Without any great drama he went on to claim his first maximum set of BRC points since 2012, when he won the Tony Pond Award for the highest placed BRC driver.
Elsewhere, mechanical issues brought the Hyundai i20 R5 of Tom Cave to a stop. Henry rolled his Fabia on Stage 14, leaving Matt Edwards (Fiesta R5) into second well over a minute behind Cronin.
Osian Pryce, also in a Fiesta R5 was third to move into the series lead. Northern Ireland’s Callum Devine and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty (Opel ADAM R2) won the Junior category.
Meanwhile, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Fiesta WRC), who was co-driven by Bandon’s Karl Atkinson, stretched his unbeaten run in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship with his fifth win of the series on the Waterford-based Dooley’s Hotel Raven’s Rock Rally.
They finished 18.1 seconds ahead of the similar car of reigning Triton champions, Clonmel’s Roy White and his Dromtarriffe co-driver James O’Brien. Citroen’s World Rally star — Waterford’s Craig Breen in a Mark 2 Ford Escort and co-driven by Patrick Crowe — were two minutes and 37.3 seconds further behind in third.
Moffett was quickest on the opening pair of stages and led by 6.7 seconds. However, a broken rear drive shaft on SS3 cost him time — all through the loop, he struggled to hear the pacenotes due to intercom woes.
White moved into an 11.8- second lead as Breen slotted his 2.5 Millington-engined Escort into third, some 39.8 seconds behind Moffett and five ahead of Niall Maguire, who spun on the second stage and later retired (SS4) with a broken driveshaft.
On the second loop Moffett regained his superiority. By SS6, he was 7.8 seconds ahead of a fortunate Roy White, who endured a 360-degree spin that only cosmetically damaged the front grill and spoiler of his Fiesta. Breen retained third.
Moffett went on to secure his fifth straight win of the campaign and is one event away from clinching the title.
Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi) won Group N and also netted the Triton Showers Drive of the Day award. He finished 11.6 seconds in front of the Mitsubishi of David Guest, who lost time with a wrong tyre choice and a brief off-road excursion.
Tipperary’s Killian O’Sullivan/Conal O’Sullivan (Honda Civic) won the Junior category as Meath’s Brian Brady/Leonard Tuille (Honda Civic) took maximum points to move into the lead of the Triton Junior Championship.
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