Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship round four ; International Rally Isle of Man 9/10 July 2010
Pirelli TEG Sport crew Keith Cronin and Barry McNulty took a well deserved victory on Rally Isle of Man, the fourth round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, making it two wins apiece for them and second placed Gwyndaf Evans with new co-driver Gareth Roberts.
Any chance of a close battle was ended on Friday after JR Motorsports’ Evans lost two minutes with an off, but Cronin drove a mature second day despite some atrocious weather in the middle of Saturday.
Third place went to Jason Pritchard and Robbie Durant, an excellent drive on the Welsh youngster’s first season in a four wheel drive car, to put him on the podium for the first time.
The weather undoubtedly played a major part in all the crews’ experience on the Manx roads every driver having tales of aquaplaning and near misses on roads that resembled rivers in places.
As the event started Alastair Fisher and Rory Kennedy set the initial pace on the first stage which started in foggy conditions straight out of the famous TT pitlane, but there was a gap of less than a second to JR Motorsports’ Evans after less than a mile of competition. Reigning champion Keith Cronin and Barry McNulty were back in eighth, albeit only three seconds adrift of the leaders.
As the drivers settled in Evans pulled clear, leaving Fisher third behind Cronin, but after the first service Cronin launched a fight back, closing to within five seconds of the Welshman after his Mitsubishi’s rear suspension lost alignment. The final stage before second service would prove time-consuming for Evans, caught out on a slippery section, the already wayward car spun and clouted a bank, further damaging the rear right hand wheel alignment.
His accident cost him nearly two minutes, handing the lead to Cronin, but further drama unfolded behind as Fisher crashed heavily, stopping the stage. The crew were unhurt but it meant everybody else was awarded Cronin’s time, leaving Evans seventh.
Cronin’s Pirelli TEG Sport team-mates Adam Gould/Robbie Durant were elevated to second despite a persistent misfire and they responded with a fastest time on stage seven. However their excellent run in last year’s event winning Impreza was cruelly cut short on the very next stage, when they hit a post and damaged the radiator. The crew managed to make the stage finish and attempted to fix the damage, but without spares had to admit defeat.
Jason Pritchard and Craig Drew were therefore elevated to a career best second in their first season in a four wheel drive car, having passed championship leader Jonny Greer/Gordon Noble who struggled with a broken front shock absorber.
Unfortunately for Pritchard fellow Welshman Evans was on a charge and he passed them on the first of the four stages run to the overnight halt, including two through the famous Castletown spectator test.
Greer hung onto fourth and best of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge runners. The young Northern Irishman still leads the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship but Evans has closed the gap to just four points before dropped scores.
Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Championship
Cronin’s result coupled with retirements by both his and Evans’ team-mates only closes the gap in the Teams’ championship by two points, JR Motorsports sixteen points ahead of Pierlli TEG Sport. Dave Weston Jnr added points for Ramsport in sixth place after a brilliant drive back from plumb last on the second stage. He and Ieuan Thomas punctured, but set a string of second fastest times on Saturday, finishing a scant tenth of a second behind Nikara.
Pirelli Star Driver
The drive of the rally had to be that of Finnish brothers Jarkko and Petri Nikara who finished fifth overall, first two wheel drive crew and first in the competitive Rally 2 class. In their third ever asphalt rally the Renault Clio crew also bettered their team-mate, the impressive drive catching the eye of the Pirelli Star Driver competition judges who awarded him the coveted Pirelli “Yellow Jersey”.
Taking his fifth straight win in the Fiesta SportTrophy was Gwyndaf’s son Elfyn Evans with Andrew Edwards alongside. They had a slightly frustrating event though, not wanting to push too hard in their first event in the R2 Fiesta. Unfortunately for the youngster he cannot claim the title just yet as he needs a single point to seal the 2010 FST. He is also going to have to watch his back for the Dulux Trade MSA British Junior Rally Championship title as Nikara is now just one point behind. [AUDIO]
Citroën Racing Trophy
Robbie Barrable and Damien Connolly took the Citroën Racing Trophy honours with a great drive in the hotly contested series. Mark Donnelly and Aidan Friel put up a strong fight early on, but an ailing intercom put paid to the battle, allowing Barrable to pull clear.
Dulux Trade MSA British Ladies Rally Championship
Taking the Dulux Trade MSA British Ladies Rally Championship is another Citroën driver Molly Taylor, who did so alongside her mother Coral who joined the team from Australia for the first time. The award is one of just a handful presented at the headquarters of the Royal Automobile Club in London’s Pall Mall.
Diesel Rally Cup
Another crew sealing a category in the championship are brothers Steve and Tony Graham who win the Diesel Rally Cup for the second year, he victory despite hitting the wall in front of the TT grandstand on the very first stage.
Crews now have a break of over a month before the next event, International Rally NI based in Antrim on 20/21st August. Both Cronin and Evans have unfinished business on the event and it is guaranteed to be a cracker.
Coverage from the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship’s fourth round will be on Sky Sports 4 at 18:00 on Monday 12th July