2010 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship
Round One: Bulldog International Rally North Wales
Fuel Pressure Problems puts pay to Breen’s BRC Opener (Event Report)
Craig and Co Driver Gareth Roberts in their new “Kick Energy” Ford Fiesta S2000 suffered hard luck as a fuel line ruptured after only two stages bringing a premature end to their Bulldog International Rally the opening round of the MSA British Rally Championship. As Craig returned to the Welshpool livestock Market Rally Service Area the disappointment was clearly visible. “This was the first time the car has given us any type of mechanical problem and to have to retire because of something as simple as a fuel line makes it very hard, but that’s rallying. We must now pick ourselves up and focus on the Circuit of Ireland next weekend. In some ways it’s good to have our next event as close as we will be back on the stages within a week. As far as the BRC is concerned we must now look ahead to the Pirelli International in a few weeks time”.
The opening round of the new season got under way in the border town of Welshpool, Powys as the MSA British Rally Championship welcomed new championship sponsors “Dulux Trade” to the Bulldog International Rally. Eight stages laid ahead of the thirty eight strong international field as they set out on a new season in the United Kingdoms premier rallying series. Special stage names like Myherin (25.6 Kms) and Sweet Lamb (27.2 Kms) bring shivers to the spine of any rally driver and these set the scene for the opening loop as the competitors began a new year. After returning to the Welshpool livestock Market for a thirty minute service the crews would repeat these monster stages completing the morning’s tests.
In the afternoon the competitors moved to stage five “Big Ray” (8kms) then to “Dyfi Main” (14.4 Kms) for stage six. The penultimate stage would see the cars enter the 11.2 Kms of Pantperthog. The final test, the 20.8 Kms of Gartheiniog would bring the curtain down on the 2010 Bulldog.
Craig and Gareth were seeded at number five and completed a successful shakedown on Thursday, with Craig stating the stage was a little rougher than the actual event stages but was very happy with his setup. Friday was designated to recce and documentation. This left the action to start on Saturday morning with the first car entering Myherin 1 just after 8 am. Reigning BRC championship Keith Cronin set the benchmark stopping the clocks with a time of 15:15.8 in the Subaru Impreza N15. Craig followed Keith in second place with a time of 15:48.00; Gwyndaf Evans completed the top three with 15:54.4 but complained of gearbox problems even at this early stage. On to stage two with the first run over Sweet Lamb and again Cronin was quickest setting 17:48.7 for the 27.2 Kms. Craig picked up his pace and was just twelve seconds down. Alastair Fisher partnered by Rory Kennedy moved into third place by virtue of Gwyndaf’s gearbox problems leaving him with only 2nd and 4th gears by the end of the stage. This also elevated Dave Weston Jnr to fourth overall with Evans now in fifth. The Kick Energy service crew were getting prepared for the first service of the day when a phone call came through from Craig stating he had a fuel problem with the car. He was pulled in to a lay-by and could get a strong smell of fuel but the car had cut out. He spent the following 20 minutes trying everything he could to restart the Fiesta with on result. Evans also suffered an early exit as his ailing gearbox cried enough as he left the time control at the end of the second stage. Back in Welshpool at service Cronin reported a great run on the opening stages. “I kept it clean and tidy and tried not to let the car run wide on to the loose. On the 2nd stage I lost a few seconds as I feel I’m braking a little early, but I’m very happy with my start”. On the rerun over Myherin Alastair Fisher claimed his first fastest time of the championship by setting 15:36.3, he was followed by Dave Weston with Cronin in third. At this point Cronin had a comfortable lead of 41 seconds on Fisher. Fisher was again fastest on Sweet Lamb 2 and Cronin’s lead was cut to 29.6 seconds. In second service Cronin said he backed off over stages three and four. Fisher on the other hand said “I was very committed; we made a few amendments to the notes on the first run through as the roads had dried out quite well and this paid off”.
Cronin in the TEG Sport Impreza raised the bar again on stages five and six to pull away from the field. The Cork man was 5.7 seconds faster than Dave Weston on five and stage six (Dyfi Main) Cronin was nine ahead of Jonny Greer with Adam Gould in second. It was on this stage that Alastair Fisher’s day came to an end with a damaged transmission. With only two remaining stages Cronin now had a lead of 1minute and 19 seconds over Dave Weston Jnr with Adam Gould a further 26.4 back in third. Cronin consolidated the rally win by setting two fastest times over the final stages to land his first victory of the new season by more than two minutes.
The event that promised so much for Craig and the team ended with retirement but mechanical problems can hit at any time. The team now looks forward to the next event in the championship, the Pirelli International Rally on the 23rd and 24th of April. Before that however there’s the small matter of the Circuit of Ireland next weekend as the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship roars back into action.