Rallye Germany Keith CroninIrish driver Keith Cronin resumes his battle to become Citroen Top Driver when the series moves to the home of the French manufacturer next week. Rally de France will host round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship and sees Cronin arrive in a strong second position in the series.

After scoring three podium finishes from the last three events, including WRC3 victory at Rally Finland, Cronin and co-driver Marshall Clarke are keen to continue their recent run of form when the action moves to the tricky asphalt roads of the Alsace region. Cork driver Cronin is just four points adrift of French asphalt ace Sebastien Chardonnet, however, the Motorsport Ireland-backed driver will face tough opposition from a number of local drivers when the event kicks off next Thursday.

Cronin, a triple British Rally Champion, has shown front-running speed on all events so far this season – even though it’s his debut year at the top level. However, with the French drivers set to dominate their home event, Cronin is aiming to drive his own rally, set his own pace and collect some important points on this penultimate round of the Citroen Top Driver series.

Such is the competitive nature of the championship, where the best young drivers in the world race in identical Citroen DS3 rally cars, four different drivers have won the four rounds held so far. And next weekend’s event is set to be another tough battle.

Rally de France is based at Strasbourg on the country’s border with Germany and uses asphalt roads around the Alsace region. Typically fast and narrow, they demand accurate pacenotes to stay safe but also carry speed. Some stages are high in the Vosges mountain range and usually cold, damp and inclement weather can make the smooth roads pretty slippery.

But it’s the mud which gets dragged onto the road after drivers cut corners which can be a big problem and play havoc with grip. Cronin and the Charles Hurst Citroen will need to master these conditions and, having only competed on two asphalt rallies in France before, experience is not on their side.

This year’s event is set to draw huge numbers of spectators. It starts again in Strasbourg with a Thursday evening spectator stage finishing close to the European Parliament building.

Friday sees a loop of three stages to the south-west of Strasbourg which is repeated – it includes the longest stage of the event Vosges-Pays d’Ormont at 34.34km. Saturday’s racing consists of a three-stage loop around Colmar which is topped off with a short spectator blast through the streets of Mulhouse at the end of the day.

The rally draws to a close on Sunday with another repeated loop of three stages around the town of Haguenau to the north of Strasbourg.

Keith Cronin said: “We’ve been faced with a number of tough rallies this year but I think this one will be the most competitive. I’ve only done two Tarmac rallies in France before so I expect the local drivers to be very fast and we just need to aim for a finish at our own pace – hopefully that strategy will work. I don’t want to get caught up in a battle and make a mistake.

“I generally favour faster rallies so in theory this event should suit me. But the conditions will be tricky and there are more competitors who can take points away from me. At this stage in the series, every single point is important.”

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