Strategy call helps Edwards to Circuit of Ireland win

Keith Cronin was finally bested on Irish Tarmac in 2024 on round three


An inspired tire choice helped Matt Edwards score a maiden Irish Tarmac Championship victory of the season, the Welshman heading series leader Keith Cronin home in Dungannon.

Three-time British Rally Champion Edwards arrived at the finish of the 60-mile event 14.4 seconds up on his fellow Ford Fiesta Rally2-driving rival. Such was the furious pace at the front, the lead pair was more than a minute and a half ahead of third-placed Josh Moffett (Citroën C3 Rally2).

After the morning’s four stages, Cronin led Edwards by just two-tenths of a second. But the big question is service was centered on the weather, with rain threatened through the afternoon’s repeated stages.

Edwards played it safe and put a pair of wets in the trunk. Cronin gambled on the rain staying away and stuck to a full slick option; welcome to Northern Ireland in the spring. Shortly after Cronin looked to be easing clear by lifting 4.5s out of Edwards in Drummond 2, the rain clouds hung heavy over The Hollow. Then they delivered.


Number two on the door was followed by number two on the results sheet; Cronin's early-season domination was finally curtailed by Edwards

Edwards fitted the wets to the front of the Fiesta and promptly took a second a mile out of his rival. He went into the penultimate test 5.9 up and furthered that advantage on still-damp roads.

With the wind already in his sails, Edwards dominated the final stage to score a win that puts him back in the fight for this year’s Irish title, a much-needed return to form after crashing out of the season opener in Galway.

“That stage was incredible where we fitted the wets,” said Edwards. “It was a lottery from start to finish. Luckily we had the wets.”

Ultimately, it was more strategy than luck. And he still had to keep the Fiesta between the hedges on some incredibly tricky roads. Edwards knew his chance had gone when the rain came.


Circuit of Ireland is Edwards' first victory in a national-level championship since the Ulster Rally in 2021

“He was clever with the tires,” said Cronin. “It was so difficult to get any heat into the tires. We’d get a dry stretch, but then you’d go through some wet and they just went cold again.”

Moffett’s morning was disturbed when he found cows on the road in the second stage, but he kept his head together and was then content with the bottom step of the podium as the gaps began to grow

Cathan McCourt and Desi Henry were tied on time going into the penultimate stage, with Fiesta man McCourt eventually taking the position. Jonny Greer was in the thick of the fight until he crashed out on the sixth of eight stages.

It might not have been the longest Circuit in history, but it was definitely one of the most competitive and entertaining – a rally worthy of the name and a worthy winner in Edwards.