The Rally de Portugal represented Keith Cronin’s first outing at the WRC 3 Level, and things didn’t go entirely to plan. A fifth-place finish overall was more than creditable, but Cronin’s outstanding performance on the first day offers the promise of higher placings in the rallies ahead.

Keith Cronin Rally Portugal 13

Leading on the First Day

In the initial stages, Keith made great progress, demonstrating the finesse behind the wheel that equips him to challenge for titles at this level. “I was really happy with my pace on the first day,” says Keith. “In some places, the notes were a little too fast, and we lost a little time here and there just running wide,” he explains.

Still Keith and his co-driver Marshall Clarke, put in a stylish performance, and – at the overnight halt – Cronin held the lead, besting his closest rival, the Northern Irish driver Alistair Fisher, by 3.3 seconds.

Mechanical Setbacks

Keith’s lead wasn’t able to withstand the mechanical setbacks that affected the rest of the rally, however. It’s a rally that is famously tough on cars, and on the second day, Cronin’s Citroën  DS3 took in water at a river crossing on the 7th stage. It was impossible to restart it and push on with the race. Time penalties were imposed, and the stages ended with Cronin in 5th place.

Mechanical issues struck again when a problem with the rear beam cost Cronin valuable time on the tough 52km stage on Sunday. While every effort was made to get the car back in action, the damage done cost a valuable 14 and a half minutes and left Keith at a major disadvantage for the rest of the rally.

Strong Potential

In the repeat of the long 52km stage, Cronin posted a time 21 seconds faster than the one achieved by the eventual winner, Bryan Bouffier. Finishing out his first rally at WRC3 level, he showed the class that fans of the 3-time British Rally Champion have come to expect …

Keith also finished 5th in the Citroën Top Driver series, and – from his point of view – the whole experience was a great chance to learn about what’s involved in competing in the World Rally Championship. “Overall, I’m very happy with the performance, bearing in mind it’s my first World Rally Championship event and my first time on these stages,” Keith said.

“The experience I’ve gained will definitely benefit me in the next event and it’s very encouraging to know that I’m on the pace of the other top guys.”

Keith Cronin rally portugalWRC – Round Two – Sardinia
21st-22nd June

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