Cronin takes his second BRC win of 2022

Keith Cronin underlined why he is a four-time Motorsport UK British Rally Champion, setting fastest time on all but one stage of the Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally on Saturday [13 August] to secure a scintillating victory in Scotland and his second win of the season.

The Irishman, along with co-driver Mikie Galvin returned an impeccable performance over the event's six stages in the searing summer heat, battling low-hanging dust to take his Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo to his first BRC win on gravel since 2012. It would be fellow Volkswagen pilot Osian Pryce who stole second place in a dramatic final stage thriller, battling with Ruari Bell till the last who would take his maiden BRC podium in third.

Every round of the championship this season has been a dry affair and the Grampian was no different. As the UK continued to bask in a lengthy heatwave, the blistering heat added to the challenge for the crews with the super-fast Kincardineshire forests just outside of Aberdeen providing a tough test on the dry and hard gravel stages.

Leading the field away was the Nicky Grist Rally winner Osian Pryce in his Michelin-backed Polo and he would have the distinct benefit of having no-one's dust to follow and in a prime position to capitalise on his number one seed. But despite Cronin quite literally eating Pryce's dust, he was fastest out of the blocks by three seconds from Bell on the opener and would never look back.

Racking up the stage wins with apparent ease, Cronin had amassed a ten-second lead by the first service of the day, increasing that to thirteen by the second, despite a joint scratch time on the fourth test from both Pryce and Bell. But he wouldn't rest on his laurels, banging in a further two dazzling times to seal a valuable victory in his `Drive for Five` BRC title chase.

Whilst Cronin's win was arguably straightforward, the battle behind him was far from simple. Pryce's Nicky Grist win meant he was arguably the favourite but found himself down in third and four seconds shy on the opening Durries test. That gap did nothing but open up during the day as he and Noel O'Sullivan couldn't quite find the pace required to close in on the leader.

Heading into the last stage, Pryce was almost resigned to come away with third and salvage what points he could from a difficult day. But emerging from the final test, he did just enough to vault from third to second and grab more crucial points for his title campaign.

That place was at the expense of Bell and Max Freeman who have been searching for some luck all season long. It almost looked like it had arrived in Banchory just in time for his season to take an upturn, sitting in an impressive second overall for much of the event, only to take a trip into the Scottish ditches and trees on the final stage, just managing to emerge with third.

James Williams and Dai Roberts have shown a positive turn of pace in 2022 but have not been able to repeat their opening round podium in their Hyundai i20. A second fastest time on the Drumtochty test showed the capability, but another tough day in the office and the return of the niggles that have plagued him for the last few events, saw Williams take fourth and left ruing what could have been.

Taking his first BRC podium last month in Wales, Jason Pritchard has confessed to feeling more confident about his Polo on the gravel. With Phil Clarke alongside, Pritchard struggled in the Scottish tests with confidence and like many others, dust to round out to the top five. Andy Davies and Michael Gilbey took sixth in their Fiesta as they continue to adapt to their new machine and Davies's debut BRC campaign.

It was a bitter end to Garry Pearson's Grampian, sitting in fourth and within sight of the podium positions, the Scot got caught out on the penultimate stage of the event, sliding wide in his Hankook-equipped Fiesta Rally2 and ending his rally in a ditch. Elliot Payne's BRC return would also be one to forget. Throttle issues in his Fiesta in the opener forced him off the road but it would be a severe oil leak that eventually ended his day prematurely.

It was as tight as it gets in the Junior BRC for much of the day with the battle between current series leader Eamonn Kelly and nearest challenger Kyle White. Both crews tied on times over the opening test before Kelly eked out a five-second advantage in the second in his Fiesta Rally4. White responded on the next in a tit-for-tat exchange and that was down to just one second ahead of the final loop.

But White's charge ended on the penultimate test, ripping a brake line off his Peugeot 208 Rally4, allowing Kelly to relax over the final stage of the event and secure his and Conor Mohan's second win to extend their Junior BRC lead.

Johnnie Mulholland and Eoin Treacy enjoyed second place in their Fiesta Rally4, continuing to build their pace as the season progresses, whilst Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams were forced to use SuperRally after their Peugeot 208 Rally4 developed a fuel leak before the first stage, recovering to take third.

It was a familiar name at the top of the National Rally Title honours with Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans taking the spoils in their Hyundai i20, extending their championship lead in the process. William Mains and Dilwyn John sadly retired their Vauxhall Corsa with engine failure.

The British Rally Championship switches back to asphalt in just three weeks as the Get Connected Rali Ceredigion hosts round five in Wales.

Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Provisional Points - Overall After Round 4

1. Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin 88
2. Osian Pryce/Noel O'Sullivan 68
3. James Williams/Dai Roberts 45
4. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke 31
5. Garry Pearson/Dale Furniss 30
6. Eamonn Kelly/Conor Mohan 25
7. Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman 23
8. Elliot Payne/Patrick Walsh 22
9. Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey 18
10. Kyle White/Sean Topping 16

13th August, 2022

Tänak Prevails in Finland!

Ott Tänak gave Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in Jyväskylä with a precision-perfect drive on Secto Rally Finland victory on Sunday 7th August. The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the four-day gravel road fixture 6.8sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris rival Kalle Rovanperä - clinching his third Finland success in the process.

Tänak found it difficult to be comfortable in his Hyundai i20 N from the get-go, but was still able to produce top times throughout thanks to hard grit and determination. As Friday's road-opener, Rovanperä was slow out of the blocks but reeled off five stage wins on Saturday to climb from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4sec in arrears after slicing the deficit in unpredictable conditions.

Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action in Sunday's closing leg, but Tänak was in no mood to compromise. He gave just 1.8sec away to his rival over the four speed tests and stood atop the podium for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in June. Rovanperä virtually resigned himself from a maiden home victory after Sunday morning's first pass of Ruuhimäki, where he and Tänak posted identical times. With a solid haul of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks, stretching his championship lead to 94 after eight of 13 rounds, while his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad ended 88 points clear in the manufacturers' standings with three Yaris cars in the top four.

Home hero Esapekka Lappi completed the podium 1min 13.9sec down, but was lucky to even see the finish after rolling on SS21. He used epoxy resin to patch a crack in his Toyota's radiator ahead of the last stage and powered through with no front windscreen. Elfyn Evans was 16.9sec behind and conceded time on Saturday afternoon. Like his team-mate, the Welshman also had to pick up the spanners, bodging together damaged rear suspension using ratchet straps and jubilee clips.

It wasn't Thierry Neuville's weekend. Set-up frustrations plagued the Hyundai driver and he was never in a position to fight with the leading quartet. He trailed Evans by 40.4sec in fifth overall and slipped to third in the championship behind Tänak. Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta ended 51.0sec further back to head Gus Greensmith, who was M-Sport Ford's leading Puma driverin seventh overall after scrapping with colleague Pierre-Louis Loubet for most of the event but the Frenchman retired with mechanical woes before the final stage.

The championship returns to asphalt in less than two weeks when Belgium makes its second WRC appearance. Ypres Rally Belgium takes place on August 18 - 21.

9th August, 2022

Ott Tanak leads Rally Finland

Ott Tanak leads Rally Finland from Toyota's Esapekka Lappi after a hotly contested Friday morning at the World Rally Championship gravel classic. The 2019 world champion produced a faultless display, while fighting his i20 N, to win two of the four completed stages and open up a slender 6.2 lead over Lappi who, aided by a more favourable road position, took the fight to Tanak from the outset leading Toyota's charge. The Finn won Stage 3 but lost 0.9s to his rival on the morning's final test.

Last year's winner Elfyn Evans returned to service in third, 11.1s adrift, ahead of Craig Breen, who led M-Sport Ford's charge in fourth, 2.4s further back. Although disadvantaged by starting first on the road, championship leader Kalle Rovanpera only dropped 15.3s to hold fifth in front of Toyota's Takamoto Katsuta and overnight leader Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). M-Sport trio Pierre-Louis Loubet, Rally1 debutant Jari Huttunen and Gus Greensmith rounded out the top 10.

Despite not being completely happy with the handling of his car, Tanak pushed hard to win the event's first forest stage and move into the rally lead. Lappi emerged as his nearest rival ending the stage 2.7s adrift, while M-Sport's Breen posted the third fastest time ahead of Toyota's Evans and Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport).

Rally favourite Rovanpera dropped 6.3s to Tanak during the stage after revealing there was more cleaning than he expected being first on the road. Rovanpera's Toyota teammate Katsuta lost ground to a 360 degree spin, while Loubet was lucky to finish after touching a rock on the apex of a corner.

However, there was a more serious drama for Oliver Solberg after his i20 N snapped doing a left hander resulting in a heavy crash that damaged the car's roll cage. An emotional Solberg explained he had no chance in saving the car, which has now been retired from the event. Lappi once again outlined his strong start to the day by edging Tanak by 0.3s to win Stage 3. Breen was third fastest to maintain fourth overall behind Evans, who was 0.2s slower than Rovanpera as the Finn ended the opening two stages 10.8s adrift of leader Tanak in fifth overall.

There was also drama for M-Sport's Fourmaux when the Frenchman clipped a rock in a ditch with his Ford Puma's front right, which forced the 27-year-old to stop seven kilometres into the stage.
Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria were able to compete a repair using cable ties to allow them to slowly complete the stage, but lost almost 17 minutes in the process. The pair had been sitting seventh before the incident.

Tanak's impressive charge in an uncomfortable i20 N continued on Stage 4 as the Estonian responded to Lappi by taking a second stage win to extend his lead to 5.4s. This time only 0.4s separated the duo on the test.

Evans produced a clean run to log the third best time but the Welshman wasn't completely comfortable. Breen also maintained his strong start to keep pace with Evans to remain in the battle at the front, while Rovanpera was only 2.5s adrift. Further back, Loubet lost time to stall at the start of the stage while team-mate Fourmaux suffered more misfortune when a power steering leak on his Puma cost him even more time.

Luckily Fourmaux avoided losing more time when organisers cancelled Stage 5 due to safety concerns over the amount of spectators lining the roads. The final stage of the loop, a second pass through Thursday night's super special, was won by Katsuta, who managed to pip Neuville and Tanak by 0.1s. Rookie Huttunen impressed to set the fourth quickest time, while Rovanpera lost 2.1s on the short 3.48km blast.

The WRC teams will contest four more stages to complete Friday's action.

5th August, 2022

Rallyday Alliances with Dirtfish

* DirtFish to sponsor Europe's biggest one-day rally festival
* Stars aligning for Castle Combe event on September 17th, 2022
* Show looking bigger and better for World Rally Car celebration

Seattle-based Rally School global media house DirtFish is to sponsor Rallyday at Castle Combe. The September 17 event, a highlight of the European rallying calendar for more than two decades, continues to evolve, innovate and grow and DirtFish will be very much part of that process this year.
DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer has supplied cars for Rallyday on numerous occasions down the years, but this season he's delighted to take his commitment up a level.

Steve said: "Rallyday is an event that's very close to the hearts of rally fans from across Britain and around Europe. As a British rally fan, myself - one who grew up chasing RAC Rallies around the country - I love Rallyday. It brings together some of the finest cars from down the decades, there's the driving element with the BGMSport Legends Stages and there's the opportunity to meet likeminded people and catch up with old friends. "It's a great pleasure for DirtFish to back Rallyday. As a Rally School, we're all about the sport and encouraging participation in rallying, this is another great opportunity to do that.

"At the same time, Rallyday holds a fairly special place in the development of DirtFish Media. It was at this event in 2019 that we pulled the deal together to start what's grown into arguably the world's biggest and best source of rally and off-road news.

"But mainly, DirtFish Rallyday is special because it's somewhere you can come, buy yourself a burger, stand on the bank and enjoy wonderful cars and magic memories. I know that's what I'll be doing on Saturday, September 17th!"

30th July, 2022

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