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Cronin wins in Yorkshire to lift crown
27 September 2009
Keith Cronin and Greg Shinnors set a blistering pace on International Rally Yorkshire to not only take their third gravel victory of 2009, but with it secure the MSA British Rally Championship at their first attempt.
The battle with season-long championship rivals Mark Higgins and Bryan Thomas was all-but won on the first of the day's nine stages, where the 23-year-old from County Cork took thirteen seconds of the triple British rally Champion.
Sadly on the last stage, any hope of a late chance for Higgins was quashed when his Pirelli TEG Sport Impreza left the road at high speed.
Cronin's victory is the first for an Irish driver since 1974, when Billy Coleman took the title at the wheel of a Ford Escort.
“It hasn't sunk in yet, but we knew we had the pace on this event, having competed here last year,” Cronin said. “It's a shame Mark (Higgins) went off on the last stage and I hope they are OK, but to take the title against such an excellent driver is fantastic.”
Stuart Jones and Andy Bull made an excellent comeback to the BRC, beating both Higgins and Cronin on four of the day's nine stages to take a well deserved second place overall. The times set in the borrowed Team JRM Lico Evo X were sufficient to secure the final place in the Pirelli Star Driver Final too, impressing the judges with a controlled but quick drive.
The fifth driver to take third place in 2009 was an elated Jonny Greer, he and Kirsty Riddick having an untroubled day aside from a puncture early on. The Ulsterman has been in the chasing pack of young drivers all season, his pace improving throughout. This first BRC podium is certainly well deserved on such a demanding event.
Promoted to fourth after Higgins' accident were outgoing Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould and co-driver Seb Marshall. They managed to get to grips with the older specification Impreza after swapping with Pirelli TEG Sport team-mate Higgins, their second fourth place sufficient to seal the MSA British Teams Rally Championship for the Carnforth based outfit.
The final round of the 2009 MSA British Rally Championship sealed titles for other drivers aside from Cronin, with Rally Yorkshire seeing new champions crowned in both Rally 1 and Rally 2 in the form of Luke Pinder and Jason Pritchard respectively.
Pritchard, along with co-driver Andrew Edwards, didn't need to contest Rally Yorkshire for his Citroën Racing Trophy campaign, the final round of which is Rallye Le Touquet next weekend. His goal for Rally Yorkshire was to impress the Pirelli Star Driver judges, however problems from the outset dashed those hopes. He broke a brake pipe and suffered two punctures, but still takes class R2 honours in the British championship.
Luke Pinder took a haul of awards, starting with the class R1 victory on the event. The victory was sufficient to secure the class in the championship but probably more rewarding was being crowned 2009 Swift Sport Cup champion.
In taking the overall series victory, he is also highest placed junior driver, the accolade bringing with it his second Pirelli Star Driver nomination. As the only driver to have been nominated in both 2008 and 2009, the Yorkshireman should have some small advantage.
Gordon Nichol and Emma Morrison were bitterly disappointed to lose out for a second year. Their event getting off to a bad start on stage one when the little Swift slid off into a ditch. Molly Taylor and Jemma Bellingham, the only other pair with a chance of the title, sadly retired when a rock fractured their fuel tank.
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