Cronin crowned British Rally Champion
- 27th September 2009, 9:41pm
Young Irish star Keith Cronin was crowned the new British Champion after claiming his maiden victory in a dramatic Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on Saturday (September 26).
Cronin always looked likely to clinch the British crown as his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 consistently outpaced season-long championship rival Mark Higginsâ€™ Subaru Impreza over the ultra-fast North York Moors forest stages.
But the 23-year old from West Cork, the eldest of ten children, needed a sizeable slice of luck to win the rally outright â€“ his third success in the six-round series.
Vastly experienced Welsh veteran Gwyndaf Evans, British Champion back in 1996, was quickest on no fewer than six of the nine sun-drenched stages, taking the lead just before midday, before suffering a rear off-side puncture just a couple of miles into the second 14-mile run around Langdale.
Evans was forced to stop and change the flat, losing four minutes and wrecking his chance of winning what is acknowledged to be one of the fastest gravel rallies in Europe.
â€œI never really though about winning the rally, I just came here to beat Mark and make sure of the British title.â€ claimed a thrilled Cronin before cracking the traditional champagne along with co-driver Greg Shinnors on the finish ramp.
Higginsâ€™ misery was compounded when he crashed out of the event just a few miles from the end of the final stage.
Evans too was desperately disappointed and commented: â€œIâ€™m gutted â€“ I was fastest on most of the stages and not far off on the others and, with Keith and Mark battling for the championship, I knew I could win.â€
Stuart Jones was eventually second, 21 4 seconds behind Cronin, with Jonathan Greer third to complete a Mitsubishi 1-2-3.
Further Irish success came when Ulsterâ€™s Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride regained the British Historic crown, last won in 2004, by comfortably claiming class and category victory in a gleaming yellow mid-sixties Porsche 911.
Charlie Payne and Craig Thorley snatched a narrow seven second success in the Trackrod National Rally, driving yet another Mitsubishi, while completing a local Yorkshire double were Jim McNeil and Mike Scrimgour, who steered a Subaru Impreza to a more comfortable 34.4 second win in the Trackrod Clubmanâ€™s Trophy.
Luke Pinder, alongside navigator Peter Scott, emerged happy yet surprised winners of the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup and with it a factory supported drive on Novemberâ€™s Rally of Scotland, final round of the Inter-Continental Rally Challenge.
Pinder struggled with mechanical problems throughout and trailed Australiaâ€™s 21-year old sensation Molly Taylor for most of the day. But the Sydney driver was cruelly denied the season-long contested Suzuki prize-drive by fuel supply failure on the penultimate stage.
Other rally honours went to: Robert Barrable/John Boyd (Ford Fiesta ST) â€“ BRC Rally Challenge, Belgiumâ€™s Stefaan Stouf/Joris Erard (Ford Escort RS1600) â€“ Historic Cup Category 2 (1968-74) and Julian Reynolds/Ian Oakey (Ford Escort RS1800) â€“ Historic Category 3 (1975-81) and Andrew Glover/Catriona Ratter â€“ Landrover Challenge.
Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photographic
FULL RESULTS: www.trackrodmotorclub.co.uk/RYresults.html
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