Keith Cronin Rally DriverAfter celebrating a stunning debút WRC3 victory last time out on the fast gravel stages of Rally Finland, Keith Cronin is hoping to continue his solid form when the FIA World Rally Championship heads to Germany next week.

Cronin’s Finnish victory launched him to the head of the Citroën Top Driver standings but he’s set to face a tough challenge on the asphalt stages of ADAC Rallye Deutschland. His slim three-point advantage will come under attack from the drivers behind, and many of them have significant asphalt experience which will play a role on this course.

Setting a front-running pace on all three events so far this season, Motorsport Ireland-backed Cronin and co-driver Marshall Clarke adopted a sensible approach in Finland knowing that a clean drive on a new event was in order. And they face the same challenge next week when they tackle the tricky tarmac tests around Trier for the first time in their Charles Hurst Citroën DS3 R3T.

Challenging Terrain

Keith Cronin prepares for Rallye DeutschlandRallye Deutschland is a unique event and it’s the first asphalt rally visited by the Citroën Top Driver series. Its special stages are run across three areas of distinctively different terrain.

While one stage in Rally Finland may have boasted over 100 jumps, the Panzerplatte test across the Baumholder tank range has over 100 junctions to keep both driver and co-driver busy. Its broken asphalt surface becomes dirty and slippery with many sections lined with hinkelsteins – huge unforgiving stones designed to keep tanks on track. Up to a metre in size, their bite is highly punishing if a slight error of judgement is made.

In stark contrast, the second type of stage bursts through the usually serene vineyards high up in the banks of the Mosel valley. These narrow, fast roads zig-zag through the vines and demand technical skill combined with a precise approach. The cambered tracks, lined with walls and vines, leave no room for error on the short straights, hairpins and tight junctions.

Finally the more traditional country roads account for the third variety of stage, but their smooth surfaces can become treacherously slippery if it rains.

While Cork driver Cronin may have been brought up on tarmac in his native Ireland, he hasn’t experienced the German roads before, and they’ll take a little getting used to on this first encounter. He’s aiming to take the same approach as in Finland, but is well aware the pace will be hot and the competition fierce.

Three Days of Action

This year’s event starts in Cologne on Thursday afternoon with a presentation of cars and drivers in front of the historic cathedral. Then it’s straight into action with two evening stages on the long run south to rally base at Trier near the Luxembourg border.

Friday’s action moves to the vineyards overlooking the River Mosel with two passes over a 65.68km three-stage loop to the north-east of Trier. However, Saturday delivers the most competitive distance and includes two runs over the famous Arena Panzerplatte stage – which, at 41.08km, is the longest of the event.

Sunday sees one final stage repeated and the action is brought to a close with a ceremonial finish at Trier’s Porta Nigra, a UNESCO world heritage site. The event takes in 16 timed stages and 371.86 competitive kilometres.

“The win in Finland really helped get our championship challenge back on track”, explains Keith, “but, once again, Germany is another new event for me. It’s not a traditional Tarmac rally and we will aim to tackle it like Finland – it’s a long event so we need another problem-free run.

“I expect the other drivers to be very competitive here as they’ve got good asphalt experience but it’s a long rally and if we can find a good pace and have a clean run then it would be great to come away with some more important championship points.”

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