MacCrone bags WRC2 top 10posted in WRC30 | 10 | 2017

    SCOT JOHN MacCRONE bagged a top 10 finish in what was acknowledged as the strongest WRC2 field to tackle the Wales Rally GB. And the 28-year-old from Mull, returning to rally action in the forest stages for the first time in 14 months, was delighted with his performance. (Related: Elfyn Evans wins Wales Rally GB)

    “I’m definitely happy,” MacCrone, partnered by US-based Australian co-driver, Rhianon Gelsomino, through the 21 stages and 190 competitive miles in their DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta R5, prepared by Kelso’s Dom Buckley RSC, said.

    “It’s difficult, having not been in a rally car — or even a rally environment — for more than a year, to just jump in a four-wheel drive rally car and be on the pace. Plus I hadn’t even sat in a left-hand drive car for more than a year. (Related: Scots impress on Wales Rally GB)

    “But we achieved our targets, and there were a number of big names, and guys who had done the full WRC2 or British Rally Championship, that finished behind us.

    “If we’d just had a little more seat time, I know I would have made a significant jump forward. Considering all that, we were fast. I’m pretty happy.”

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    Backed by a group of Scottish-owned companies, including Clik Software, Watermans, ScotPhone, Asset Alliance, plus Gray & Adams, MacCrone stuck diligently to his plan of bedding himself into the event and gradually increasing his pace.

    After the opening three forest stages at Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren on the morning of Day 1, the Scot was 29th overall, and 16th in his class of 36 WRC2 competitors.

    But in the afternoon, MacCrone moved up a gear, building on the confidence and speed he’d demonstrated earlier in the day.

    He was 23.4s faster than his morning run through the 12.6-miles at Myherin: the gap to class leader and stage winner — WRC 2 champion, Swede Pontus Tidemand’s Skoda Fabia R5 — also closed from 34.5s in the morning, to just 18.8s.

    The improvements continued through Sweet Lamb. MacCrone’s time of 3mins 06secs in the 2.63-miles test was exactly 2s faster than in the morning: the gap to stage winner Tidemand dropping from 9.6s to 9.4s.

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    In the day’s final stage, the repeat of the 21.83-miles through Hafren, MacCrone improved by 2.4s on his morning run, and closed the gap to WRC2 stage winner, Finn Teemu Suninen’s Fiesta R5, from 36.5s this morning, to 29.9s.

    “We definitely stuck to our plan,” McCrone explained. “It would have been easy to get frustrated and push a bit harder early on. But that’s how mistakes happen, and I was very conscious I had to keep the desire to go too quick, too early, under control.

    “Sure I made a few small mistakes, but that was simply down to rustiness: not getting my braking quite right, and sliding wide here and there. That cost me the odd few seconds.

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    “But I feel I’ve definitely learned a lot, and it would be nice to try and implement what we learned in Wales at a later date.”

    Day 2 saw MacCrone step up the pace again, overcoming a misfire in the engine of his Fiesta R5, then catching a rival Ford which had started ahead of him on the stage.

    Frustratingly, the Scot then suffered on the first night-time stage, when a dense bank of fog rolled in and sat over the 8.64-mile stage at Aberhirnant.

    “It was an absolute nightmare,” MacCrone admitted. “The fog was rolling in and out, but I’m not joking when I say we were in a bank of thick cloud the whole way through the stage, which was about nine miles. Visibility was almost non-existent.

    “That made it tough, and we dropped a bit of time there, but it was important we stayed on the road and got through the stage.”

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    After safely negotiating the final five stages on Day 3, MacCrone was delighted to finish 10th in WRC2, just over two minutes outside the top five, and 21st overall.

    “The strength-in-depth of the WRC2 class was serious,” he continued. “To be honest, at this level we’re pretty much novices, having not been in the car for so long, so to be as close as we are at the end of the rally is testament to all the hard work we’ve done.”

    And MacCrone admitted he was now hungry to return to do a full competitive rally season in 2018.

    “Having been back in the car, I just want to do more,” he smiled. “We stuck to our plan and got the car, undamaged, to the end.

    “Hopefully that will help generate the interest and support to allow us to put something in place for a full campaign in 2018.”

    Related: John MacCrone tackles Wales Rally GB

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    Jim McGill

    Photographs: Copyright Nick Bradshaw

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