The scene is set for a spectacular showdown at next weekend’s International Rally Yorkshire, when 2009 and 2010 Champion Keith Cronin challenges to claim his third MSA British Rally Championship title. If he does so, he will become only the fourth driver to win three times and follow in the footsteps of Jimmy McRae, who won it five times, Roger Clark four times and Mark Higgins three times.
In a year that has seen the championship go through a series of changes, including the introduction of its innovative two-wheel-drive only formula, the sixth and final round of 2012 signifies the end of a landmark season for the MSA British Rally Championship. It is one that has generated some of the closest competition and most committed driving for many years and, most importantly, allowed talent to shine through.
One such rising star is Welshman Elfyn Evans, who has had so much success this season he won’t be appearing in Yorkshire. As well as jointly leading the BRC drivers’ standings alongside Cronin, he also leads the WRC Academy and therefore, with the French round taking place shortly after the Yorkshire event, the Ford Fiesta R2 driver will focus on making his mark on the world stage, rather than challenge for his domestic title.
Evans’ absence hands the baton of opportunity to fellow Welsh competitor and winner of round two Tom Cave who, with just four points between them, is Cronin’s closest rival. So, with drivers able to drop the worst of their seasons’ six scores and the Irishman recording a DNF on round one – plus BRC organisers allocating 50% more points for the final round – it means the three-times winner this year will need to finish in the top eight or higher if he is to be assured his third BRC title.
But, as is always the case in rallying, it’s not over until it’s over and the two drivers currently in third and fourth places, Osian Pryce from Wales and Jonny Greer from Northern Ireland, are – with 30-points up for grabs – mathematically still in with a chance of lifting the BRC crown. However, it will need Cronin or Cave to falter if Pryce and Greer are to yield the advantage. Either way, one thing is certain: the winner will be driving a Citröen DS3 R3, as all four heir apparents are armed with similar machinery.
Had he entered the final round, Mark Donnelly – also from Northern Ireland – is another who would have been in with a chance of the title, albeit a slim one, as the Renault Clio R3 driver currently lies sixth in the standings. He is just ahead of his fellow countryman Matthew Cathcart in seventh, who will be looking to secure second place in R2 (Class 6), after Evans wrapped up the category last time around in Ulster.
Cathcart’s main challenge for R2 honours in Yorkshire will come from Jukko Korhonen, who will be making his final outing as the Pirelli Star Driver in his Skoda Fabia. Sharing ninth place with the Finn in the points table is Desi Henry, who would admit he’s not had the best of seasons so far. Therefore, the Irish Citroën DS3 R3 driver will be aiming to finish on a high note and perhaps, even on the podium too.
Another two Citröen drivers with a similar outlook – having had their fair share of ups and downs this year – will be Englishmen Callum Black and James Grint, whereas Gethin Jones’ mission is to finish following an uncharacteristic off and consequent retirement – his first of the year – in Ulster. If he does make it home on Saturday night, the Fiesta ST driver from Chepstow will secure the spoils for Class 8.
Running behind Jones in Yorkshire – and upholding R1 category honours – is Norway’s Steve Røkland driving a Fiesta. Whilst rounding off the BRC entry, there are three R2 category contenders who’s stage times have shown they could well end the event on the Class 6 podium: Alex Parpottas from Hoddeston driving a Fiesta, Chris Ingram from Manchester driving a Renault Twingo and Arron Newby from Carnforth driving a Skoda Fabia.
After two asphalt events in succession, the International Rally Yorkshire sees a return to gravel and provides the fifth loose surface rally of the season. Starting from Scarborough sea front, the BRC drivers, co-drivers and their cars will assemble on West Pier for an autograph session at 5.00pm before crossing the start line at 6.00pm on Friday evening.
Crews will then tackle a stage through Dalby Forest in darkness before returning to Scarborough for the overnight halt. A further five stages take place on Saturday in the forests across the North Yorkshire Moors, before the first car finishes on West Pier at 4.55pm – and where the 2012 British Rally Champions will spray the champagne!
For further information news about the MSA British Rally Championship, visit www.rallybrc.co.uk
For live information, photos, driver quotes, radio coverage and results, the BRC App can be downloaded by searching ‘British Rally Championship’ in the App store.
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