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british rally championship

Cronin secures crucial Jim Clark Rally victory

Keith Cronin ensured his bid for a fifth Probite British Rally Championship title remains firmly alive, by taking a critical victory at the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally [24-25 May].

After a dismal start to this year’s BRC campaign, Cronin, and co-driver Mikie Galvin took their Pirelli shod Ford Fiesta Rally2 to their first victory of the season and more importantly, edged back into contention for the coveted crown. They fended off the advances of 2019 Junior BRC champions William Creighton and Liam Regan who claimed second spot, with local hero Garry Pearson and co-driver Daniel Barritt rounding out the podium spots, making it a Fiesta Rally2 podium lock-out.

An action-packed weekend in the gruelling closed roads around the host town of Duns was almost guaranteed, but this year’s event proved to be tougher than ever with an extended Friday night format providing the perfect battleground for the BRC elite. Add in the return of the iconic Langton watersplash test and all the signs were pointing to a classic.

And the Jim Clark Rally did not fail to deliver the drama. After significant rainfall through the build-up, conditions were unpredictable, however, it was a familiar name at the top of the standings on Friday. Chris Ingram revelled in the wet conditions of the North West Stages in March, and once again showed his hand in the Castrol MEM Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTi. The Michelin-backed machine flew through the opening three tests, winning each with relative ease to enjoy a 20-second lead after the first loop. Cronin was yet to play his ace card though, Abbey St Bathans in the dark. A sensational time: over 14 seconds quicker than Ingram helped to close that gap to just 8.6 seconds heading into day two.

But Ingram’s hard work would come undone on Saturday morning when his Polo left the road on the first pass of Edrom, taking out the front left suspension and putting him out of the rally lead and into retirement. That played perfectly into the hands of Cronin who was desperate for a good result to ensure he remained in contention for another BRC title. A managed drive over the final loop was all that was needed to finally stand on the top step of the BRC podium in 2024.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said a visibly delighted Cronin.

“The first two rounds didn’t go our way, unfortunately, but championships are long. This win gives us a fighting chance again, but it’s still a long championship.

“I really didn’t think this [win] would be possible after the first loop last night as we’d made a wrong tyre choice, but we went out on the wet tyres for the last two last night and made some real good time back.

“It didn’t feel like we were doing anything extra special, but everything was working really well in the car. It was unfortunate to lose Chris this morning, which left us the lead which we’ve had to manage. “

For Creighton, it was a case of being the bridesmaid for the third time this season, but the Irishman didn’t mind. That second overall is enough to launch him firmly into the lead of the championship, the only driver to have claimed a podium on every round so far. His consistency is a testament to his hard work in the World Rally Championship and Creighton heads into the summer break with a 15-point advantage.

No one in the 140-strong entry list was more eager for a positive result than Duns driver Garry Pearson. After ending his 2023 attempt at the Jim Clark off the road, a positive result in front of a home crowd was important and he duly delivered.

Pearson would head home team-mate Max McRae who secured his best BRC result in fourth spot. He and Cammy Fair built confidence as the rally progressed, with McRae still acclimatising to Rally2 machinery and securing his first finish of the season in the process.

Rounding out the top five was Kyle White, who secured an impressive result in his Hyundai i20 with Emily Easton Page on the notes. It’s his first year in Rally2 machinery and despite a few moments along the way, scooped his best BRC result in BRC1, upholding honours for the JKS Rally Team Northern Ireland and holding off Neil Roskell and Dai Roberts in their Fiesta.

The Scottish Borders roads provided arguably the toughest challenge of the BRC roster so far, claiming a myriad of top-flight contenders. An incorrect tyre choice for round two winners Osian Pryce and Rhodri Evans was the least of their concerns after drowning their Fiesta Rally2 in the Langton ford on Friday night: into instant retirement. Meirion Evans was forced to park his Yaris GR Rally2 up with steering issues, as did James Williams in his Hyundai. Suffering at the same ford as Pryce, Elliot Payne would hermitage time on all three passes of the stage, before engine issues forced him out for good on Saturday morning.

Junior British Rally Championship, BRC3 and BRC4
A nip-and-tuck battle for the Junior BRC top spot extended throughout the weekend as the Fiesta Rally4 of Ryan MacHugh and the Peugeot 208 Rally4 of Kyle McBride swapped seconds across each one of the fourteen stages.

It was McBride who edged out an early advantage in the daylight of Friday but once the night drew in, McHugh responded blissfully to take up the mantle. However, a trip into a field on the final stage of the night handed the baton back to McBride; as a position he and co-driver Darragh Mullen wouldn’t relinquish.

“This feels good, it was great to have a good race with the two Donegal men so it’s very good,” said McBride.

“I`m really pleased to get finished, everything was working well. The main aim is the Junior BRC fight and we had to play it steady over the last loop to finish nice & clean. It’s a long year and a tough championship.”

McHugh was happy enough with second on the first event outside of Ireland and with the promise of further trips in the future, second spot is a positive result for him and co-driver Arthur Kierans. Kallum Graffin was delighted to put his Severn Valley shunt behind him, taking third spot with Mark McGeehan on the notes in their Peugeot 208.

Steve Waugh and Carl Williamson secured their second BRC3 victory in a row after rival William Hill was sidelined on Friday night with brake issues, and James Lightfoot/ Ula Budzynska scooped BRC4, beating John O’Rourke/William Nolan in their Opel Corsa Rally4.

Open Rally Title & National Rally Title
Making the switch to the Open Rally Title category proved fruitful for Callum Black/Jack Morton who dominated the top of the category from start to finish in their Fiesta Rally2. Their rapid asphalt pace saw them scoop a maximum points haul ahead of local crew Dale Robertson/Douglas Redpath in a similar machine. However, Michael Binnie/Claire Mole were second for much of the weekend, only to drop several minutes on the final stage of the rally, handing the Duns bragging rights to Robertson.

Roger and Tommi Henderson took fourth in the Open category, ensuring the trip from Cornwall was a worthwhile one and a positive result on their Jim Clark Rally debut.

It was a familiar name at the top of the National Rally Title podium as round one winner Darren Atkinson with new co-driver Harry Stubs made it two starts and two wins. They also enjoyed the Ford Escort MK2 bragging rights from second-placed Matthew Dance/Jason Davies, and it was Nathan Bolton/Phil Kenny who took third in their Mitsubishi Evo.

The British Rally Championship now enters a two-month sabbatical as August’s Voyonic Grampian Rally sees a return to the gravel for round four of the series in Banchory near Aberdeen.

The Jim Clark Rally will be broadcast on ITV4 and ITVX on Wednesday 5th June at 20:00 and repeated at 07:55 on Sunday 9th June.

External Credits:

British Rally Championship


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