Keith Cronin charged to victory in leg one of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship season finale at the 138.com Rally Isle of Man, maintaining his slender title chances in the process.
Championship outsider Matt Edwards dropped out of contention despite claiming second, whilst Fredrik Ahlin strengthened his and CA1 Sport‘s grip at the top of the standings by cementing third.
Day two opened with Cronin continuing his electric form from the opening day of the rally, charging to wins in stages six and seven despite an off-road excursion in the latter that led to front-end damage for the Irishman’s M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
Despite taking a calm and conservative approach to the stages – knowing third would be more than enough to take the overall title – Ahlin snapped Cronin’s momentum by powering to victory in stage eight, before Cronin countered in a fierce duel between the two title heavyweights.
Following a cancelled stage 10, Ahlin continued to sycthe down the gap to Edwards in second, before being stopped in his tracks by what could’ve been a potential title-changing problem. A broken differential left Ahlin’s Ford Fiesta in 2WD, seeing the Swede lose 27 seconds in a troubled stage 11, but survived unscathed after making a gearbox change in service – emerging with his title challenge still firmly on track.
The end of leg one saw Cronin claim a maximum haul of points for top spot, staying afloat in the championship battle whilst Edwards dropped from contention despite a strong second-place finish. Ahlin sealed third, protecting his healthy points lead whilst Rhys Yates and Alex Laffey completed the top five.
Edwards doubled up after stage 11 victory with another fastest time in stage 12, with the Swift Group Ford Fiesta R5 competitor duelling back-and-forth with Cronin at the front until day two’s end after stage 16.
Despite suffering a dramatic time loss in the second running of the Oatland loop, Ahlin held onto third comfortably ahead of Yates – knowing a podium finish would see him crowned champion.
The title battle continued to rage in the Prestone Motorsport News Junior BRC, with Callum Devine firing to leg one victory, surging into the championship lead by two points ahead of series rival William Creighton.
A dismal opening stage for Creighton saw Devine swoop into the rally lead, whilst Meirion Evans claimed a first stage win of the event in stage 7 – with Creighton continuing to slide due to a loss of power.
Creighton however asserted himself with top spot in stage 10, before both Devine and Creighton again lost time whilt Evans racked up another stage victory to end the first leg. A podium finish in leg one for Oscar Solberg wasn’t enough to keep the Norwegian’s slim title hopes alive heading into the final day.
Recovering from power issues, a stage 13 win saw Creighton clamber up into third as leg two began, only to plummet down the standings after an ill-timed stage 15 puncture, ending day two in fifth and leaving Devine in an unassailable rally lead and as championship favourite with five stages remaining.
Cadet Cup champion Josh Cornwell asserted his dominance by opening up a six minute advantage over main rival Tom Williams, whilst David White muscled into the BRC4 lead after significant time loss for Gee Atherton in stage 11.