Cronin Is Best Of The Brits In Belgium

by Steven Batey

Keith Cronin won his first round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship in five years at this weekend’s Ypres Rally in Belgium ahead of Matt Edwards and Osian Pryce.

Irishman Cronin took the win in dominating factor in the BRC class as several of the main championship contenders, including Fredrik Ahlin and David Bogie, hit problems during the event.

As well as winning comfortably in the British class, Cronin would go on to finish a fine sixth overall on the first European round of the British championship in its 59-year-history. Former WRC driver Kevin Abbring won the event outright ahead of Bryan Bouffier.

Despite struggling at the start of this season, the triple champion took the lead from the start of the action on Friday morning and didn’t look back.

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Cronin said on his victory: “It feels really good to win this tough event. We had a good fight with Fredrik [Ahlin] until he went off and when that happened, that changed the whole approach to the rally.”

“I was very cautious and stayed in the middle of the road and we got the result. It’s such a famous rally and to get a good result is brilliant.”

The Swede’s rally was to suffer a serious blow on the final stage of the first day, when the winner of two events this season lost control of his Skoda Fabia R5 and ended up in a ditch and would fall to the bottom of the standings at the end of day one.

Despite the problem, the championship challenger restarted on day two and managed to climb back into a solid sixth in the BRC class and could at least salvage some championship points from the weekend.

Winner last time out, David Bogie was another driver who was caught out by the Belgian tarmac and would retire from the event after an accident on just the second stage of the rally and unlike Ahlin, would not reappear on Saturday.

As Ahlin and Bogie fell to the wayside, a fine performance from Matt Edwards saw the Fiesta driver earn a superb second place finish and his first stage win in the process. The Ypres rally was only the third tarmac event that the Welshman has competed in.

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Along with Edwards, Osian Pryce was another driver to benefit from having a relatively quiet event and took third to continue his succession of podium finishes in 2017. Third in Belgium also gives him the championship lead after Ahlin’s demise this weekend.

Tom Cave, who again competed in the new to the BRC Hyundai i20 R5 was someone who looked set to finish strongly, but yet another mechanical issue with the new car at the end of stage 10 forced the youngster to retire. Cave’s main rival throughout the rally, Desi Henry, also retired from a strong position after rolling his Fabia on stage 14.

Fourth went the way of Jamie Edwards who enjoyed the longer format of this event, while Rhys Yates claimed fifth to make it a top five lockout of Ford Fiesta R5’s.

The Prestone Motorsport News BRC Junior class saw Callum Devine take the win in his first appearance in the Vauxhall Adam R2 after a fierce battle with factory Opel driver Chris Ingram.

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Ingram, who was making a one-off BRCJ appearance in Belgium, looked set to take a commanding victory when leading by over a minute when he rolled out of the event on stage 18, handing the win to Devine.

As a result, Devine won by over 6 minutes ahead of William Creighton with James Williams in third. Fourth went to Meiriron Evans with Oscar Solberg in fifth and Marty Gallagher rounding out the finishers in sixth.

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Josh Cornwell maintained his 100% winning record in the BRC Cadet class after winning in Belgium ahead of Tom Williams and Alex Waterman, while John Morrison benefited from Donnie McDonald’s mistake on day one to take the National Rally Cup victory in his Mitsubishi Evo 6.

Finally, David and son Matthew White managed to survive an incident with a ditch to clinch the BRC4 victory in their Ford Fiesta R2.

Round five of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship is the Nicky Grist Stages between July 8-9.

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