Keith Cronin has secured his third MSA British Rally Championship title after a measured drive to third place in the season-ending International Rally Yorkshire.
While Cronin and co-driver Marshall Clarke drove to the title in their Citroen DS3, the drama took place in the fight for the rally win, with fellow title protagonists Tom Cave and Osian Pryce ending the event on a dead-heat, with Cave taking his second win of the season on a tie-break.
The rally’s opening stage on Friday night indicated just how close fought the battle between Cave and Pryce was going to be, with Cave winning the stage by just 0.1s, despite a brief trip to a ditch.
Enjoying no such joy was the fourth and final championship contender, Jonny Greer seeing his faint hopes of glory evaporate when his left-front wheel sheared all four wheel-studs near the end of the stage, forcing him to stop.
Cave was the quickest out of the blocks on Saturday morning, winning SS2 and SS3 to build an eight second lead over Pryce at the rally’s halfway stage, with Cronin comfortable fifteen seconds further adrift in third, knowing a finish of eighth or higher would secure the crown.
Pryce fought back on SS4, taking nearly three seconds off Cave’s lead, before a stunning performance on the penultimate stage, SS5, saw him take fourteen seconds off Cave, who could only set the fourth fastest time after suffering from a bent axle.
This left Pryce heading into the final stage with an 8.8 second advantage and in a incredible turn of events, Cave went on to win the final stage by 8.8s from Pryce, meaning both Welshmen completed the event in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 21.4 seconds, the first time a BRC event has ended in a tie since 2006.
The tie-break goes down to the driver who was the fastest on the first stage, with Cave taking the rally win as he was 0.1s quicker than Pryce on SS1, the closest ever finish in the 54-year history of the BRC.
Behind Cronin, Desi Henry took fourth to make it a Citroen DS3 R3 lock-out of the top four, a result made even more sweeter when he was announced as the final driver to be nominated for the Pirelli Star Driver shootout.
In the R2 class, Matthew Cathcart held the lead early on, but he was usurped by Jukka Korhonen who was on a charge on his final appearance in the Pirelli Star Driver Skoda Fabia after a brief off-round excursion on SS1, the Finn eventually taking the class win in fifth overall.
Cathcart eventually slipped to seventh in his Ford Fiesta after the penultimate stage, with Callum Black completing the top six in his Citroen DS3. Norweigan Steve Rokland took the R1 class win in eighth overall, while finishing down in a lonely twelfth after returning under the SuperRally rules was Greer.
Final 2012 MSA British Rally Championship Standings:
- Keith Cronin – 102pts
- Tom Cave – 94pts
- Osian Pryce – 87pts
- Elfyn Evans – 78pts
- Jonny Greer – 65pts
- Matthew Cathcart – 61pts
Photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography