MacCrone de­lighted with 10th place fin­ish in Wales Rally GB

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

MULL’S John MacCrone bagged a top 10 fin­ish in what was ac­knowl­edged as the strong­est WRC2 field to tackle the Wales Rally GB. The 28-year-old, re­turn­ing to rally ac­tion in the for­est stages for the first time in 14 months, was de­lighted with his per­for­mance.

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

‘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-

John MacCrone

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.

‘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.’

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-mile test was ex­actly two sec­onds faster than in the morn­ing: the gap to stage win­ner Tide­mand drop­ping from 9.6s to 9.4s.

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 in the morn­ing, to 29.9s.

‘We 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.

Small mis­takes

‘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.

‘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 8.64mile 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.’

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 were 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.’

To be as close as we were at the end of the rally is tes­ta­ment to all the had work we’ve done.

Photo: Nick Brad­shaw

Mull’s John MacCrone in ac­tion dur­ing the Wales Rally GB.

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