Round three of the MSA British Rally Championship will take place this weekend, as the crews once again take to the gravel for the Pirelli International Rally based in Carlisle. This two day International is Cumbria’s biggest sporting event and the Citroën Racing Trophy UK runners will tackle the famous Kielder forest stages. With legendary stages including the fearsome Pundershaw test, and Shepherdshield, this event often throws up a lot of drama, with the sharp rocks a torture on tyres and the heavily cambered roads lined with deep ditches, which have swallowed countless rally cars in the past.
Seven 1600cc turbo charged Citroën DS3 R3’s line up for the rally, with 2009 and 2010 British Rally Champion Keith Cronin starting at number one. Keith hired a DS3 at the last minute for the Bulldog event and finished second overall, and for this rally he has taken delivery of a new DS3 kit, which the Autosport Technology team are hoping to finish just in time for the pre event shake-down. The Cork lad is optimistic about the weekend: “I have to see how we get on, but the last event was good in the DS3. I was learning front wheel drive again, and towards the later stages things were coming good. Indeed we had a costly over-shoot on the second last stage, but for this event we will have to see how things progress. I am still working on the set up of the car, and we will use it for the first time on the shake-down. The car feels good for a front wheel drive car, and it’s got quite a lot of torque, but there are some times that I am just not used to having just two wheels driving.” Keith has starred on these stages before in his Evo, and he’s definitely going to be one of the favorites starting on Friday night.
At number 3 is young Welsh star Tom Cave, fresh from his heroic victory on the last Bulldog round. That was in a hired car from France, after his new DS3 ended up in a lake due to a freak steering failure in testing. Now the Davies Motorsport team have carefully stripped the water-logged car, replaced the electrics and driven the car in testing where everything seemed to be working well. Tom is hoping to get a test on wet gravel to perfect the wet weather settings for his DS3, having got a good set-up on the dry and his performance last time out helped him move into the British Rally Championship lead.
At number 4 starts Finn Jarkko Nikara, who hasn’t had the greatest of luck so far. Round one engine problems forced retirement, whilst he was leading the Sunseeker, and he was third on the Bulldog, just 14 seconds behind winner Tom Cave. It could be third time lucky on this event, for Jarkko and his co-driving brother Petri. At number 6 is Co. Antrim’s Desi Henry who struggled a little on the last round with brake issues, but scored a fine second place on round one. Desi jointly leads the Citroën Racing Trophy UK with Osian Pryce after two rounds, and the Portglenone driver has been contesting some Irish forestry events to try and up his gravel pace. Just behind him is Osian Pryce, who has clocked up two fourth place BRC finishes so far. The Welsh teenager has shown well and has very much set his sights on getting a podium position. At number 8 is Johnny Greer, who has the experienced Gordon Noble in the co-driver’s seat this time. Johnny made his DS3 debut on the Bulldog and since then finished third two wheel drive on the IRC Circuit of Ireland. Last but not least at number 15 is James Grint, in his AVS Motorsport run DS3. James, despite a relative lack of rally experience finished the Bulldog Rally a fine 11th overall, much to his teams delight, and there is a lot more to come from this young driver.
With Citroën UK leading the Manufacturers standings in the British Rally Championship, and €6000, €3500, and €1500 up for grabs for first, second and third place in R3, this weekend’s Pirelli Rally is very important. With two stages on Friday night, after the Carlisle City Centre start, and ten stages on Saturday, a tough event lies ahead.
Citroën Racing Trophy UK after Round Two
1 Desi Henry 33 points
= Osian Pryce 33
3 Tom Cave 30
4 Keith Cronin 18
5 Jarkko Nikara 16
6 Johnny Greer 14
7 James Grint 12
Manufacturer Standings after Round Two
1 Citroën UK 71 points
2 Renault UK 61
3 Ford Motor Co 60