Keith Cronin has said a resounding victory on the Moonraker Forestry Rally has allowed him to “get back into the zone” for the third round of the British Rally Championship (BRC) tomorrow.
First time out on gravel in their Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 last weekend, Cronin and Mikie Galvin breezed to a 43.5 second win to leave them in good shape for Saturday’s Nicky Grist Stages.
It was pitched as a shakedown for the first of two consecutive loose surface BRC counters as the priority up until now has all been about honing the German car to perform on closed public roads.
“I’m glad we had the opportunity of doing the Moonraker to get back into the zone for gravel,” said Cronin. “It went well for us, obviously. It was nice to get the win on home ground, but it was also very useful for trying different settings and springs.
“The format was ideal for that in so far as we did two stages, and then repeated the same two, so it was ideal for comparison. There were two different stages then in the afternoon,” he added.
“Hopefully the work we did will pay off on the Nicky Grist Stages, but you never know until you get there because what suits in Ireland may not always translate across to the stages in Wales.
“You might say gravel is gravel, but there can be differences in the type of grading used sometimes, and the car can behave quite differently.”
Home to some of the finest forest stages in the UK and Ireland, Cronin arrives in Builth Wells with a 10 point cushion to protect over the Hyundai i20 R5 crew of James Williams and Dai Roberts.
However, the strongest competition is expected to come from last year’s BRC runner-up Osian Pryce who has 100 on his car doors as a nod to his one hundredth event start.
Twelve months ago, Pryce rounded out an all-Welsh top three at the Quinton Motor Club Ltd meeting, ending up behind Tom Cave and eventual winner Matt Edwards.
“I do not expect it to be easy at all as the Welsh forests are always an ‘away fixture’ for us, even though we have been there many times before,” said Cronin, a four-time British Rally champion.
“I know Osian will certainly be very strong there and James Williams has come on very much this season as well. Elliot Payne won the Kielder Forest Rally a couple of weeks ago in his Ford Fiesta Rally2, so he is going to be one to watch – but hopefully we will be in the mix with all of them.”
Boasting a 160-car entry, the Nicky Grist Stages comprises two loops of four stages totalling 44 miles, with the first scheduled to go live just before nine o’clock on Saturday morning.