Cronin ahead, but Wilks joins Higginsí chase
The second round of the 2009 MSA British Rally Championship is a mere three weeks after the first nail biting opener in Wales and Irishman Keith Cronin will be keen to keep the momentum after his first win, on the forthcoming Pirelli International Rally on 17/18th April.

All the crews will need to be on their toes to turn their cars around for the event, which has previously been the start point for the BRC, as Easter also falls between the two rallies. Despite the tight schedule, over forty entries are already on the International list.

Absent from the tussle at the top between Cronin/Greg Shinnors and Mark Higgins/Bryan Thomas, was reigning BRC Champion Guy Wilks, but he and Phil Pugh will be back to try and secure their own hat-trick of wins on the Carlisle based rally. Wilksí switch to a Proton S2000 will mean an unfamiliar package for the Durham driver.

Seeded at car one as the winner of both the 2007 and 2008 Pirelli International and British Rally Championships, Wilks should add even more spice to the action at the front, the ultra fast Cumbrian stages suiting his smooth yet attacking driving style.

Icelandís Daniel Sigurdarsson takes the place of Stuart Jones in a Team JRM Lico evolution 10, the 32year-old former Icelandic Rally Champion and BRC newcomer making the move from his regular Evo 9 for the Cumbrian event.

2008 Pirelli Star Diver Adam Gould and Seb Marshall will benefit from previous experience on the event, as will Andreas SjŲlander and HŚkan Jacobsson, both crews expected to go well after impressive UK 4WD debuts in Wales.

Two Scottish Davids; Bogie and Weston Junior, with co-drivers Kevin Rae and Neil Shanks respectively, will battle for Celtic honours against two Northern Irishmen, the four taking fifth to eighth points on round one. The Irishmen in question come in the form of Alastair Fisher and Jonny Greer, former BRC and Irish Champion co-driver Rory Kennedy alongside Fisher, with Antony O'Conaill guiding Greer.

British Teams Rally Championship
As leaders in the category, Pirelli TEG Sport drivers Higgins and Gould will be watching their backs for improvements in the JRM Lico Team. Sigurdarsson and Bogie have certainly got a bit of ground to make up, but speed and consistency are required for the Team award.

Unfortunate not to finish the first round, Rob Swann/Darren Garrod and Euan Thorburn/Claire Moleís Revolution Wheels team will be burning some midnight oil to make the start of the rally. Swannís car suffered an electrical failure while Thorburnís introduction to the BRC ended more violently, crashing out on stage three of the Bulldog.

BRC Classes
Rally 3
The class wars will continue in Kielder, MSA British Junior Championship leader Tom Walster also top of Rally 3, ahead of a gaggle of Fiesta SportTrophy cars. The one make series is now led by Matt Edwards, opening a gap of five points from Kris Hall in Wales with a BRC Challenge win. Former Finnish Junior Champion Matti Rantanen heads the R3's despite a non finish in Wales, while Steve Graham and Fin McCaul will rejoin their struggle for Diesel Rally Cup supremacy within R3, McCaul retiring with propshaft problems first time out.

Rally 2
Rally 2 is an all CitroŽn C2 affair, Jason Pritchard ahead of Marty McCormack and last yearís Suzuki Champion Mark Gamble. The leading pair do have an advantage though, as they both have the new Max kits, although all drivers in the C2R2 Cup also qualify for the CitroŽn Racing Trophy prize fund, making the battle even more worth fighting for.

Rally 1
Taking over at the head of Rally 1 and the Swift Sport Cup is Australian Molly Taylor, socking it to the men on only her second visit to the UK stages. Luke Pinder is her closest rival, with newcomer Joseph McGonigle third in R1 in a Civic and 2008 Swift Sport Cup runner-up Gordon Nichol third in the BRCís one make series.

The organisers of the BRCís traditional first round have not rested on their laurels this year. The new base for the Pirelli International Rally will be Carlisle Racecourse; close to the City centre and with excellent facilities, this is coupled with new stages in the infamous Kielder forest complex, keeping the April event fresh and exciting.

The Pirelli International Rally runs over the weekend of 17th / 18th April and the action gets underway at the racecourse, with cars leaving from 4:30pm on Friday. There is ample spectator viewing from the main grandstand and a full commentary as the cars head off.

But just who will be cantering up the final furlong to the winning post on Saturday is anybodyís guess and the bookies would be hard pressed to pick a winner.

The Greenlight TV Pirelli International Rally preview programme will air at 6.30pm on Sky Sports Xtra on Wednesday 15th April, with coverage from the event shown on Monday 20th at 8pm on Sky Sports 3. (Full listings including repeats are available HERE)

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