Keith Cronin makes positive start at Rally Isle of Man

Cork driver Keith Cronin in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 faces a difficult task in winning a fourth British Rally Championship crown that will be decided over the two-leg 138.com Rally Isle of Man that began last night.

Keith Cronin makes positive start at Rally Isle of Man

The Ballylickey driver and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin must win both legs and also hope that the current leader of the Prestone-backed series Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin (Skoda Fabia R5) is outside the top four on one of the two legs that count as separate rounds of the Prestone backed series.

Yet, Cronin could scarcely gave asked for a better start. He punched in the best time on last night’s opening stage, Marine Drive where he was 1.4 seconds ahead of the similar car of Matthew Edwards, with Ahlin 1.9 seconds further behind. Another fastest time on SS 2, Clanna Road (9.6 miles) pushed Cronin’s advantage to 3.6 seconds and while the top three remained unchanged, Ahlin lost ground in terms of time and was 13.6 seconds off the lead. The short spectator stage at Villa Marina went the way of another BRC registered competitor, Alex Laffey (Fiesta R5) as Cronin and Edwards set the same time while Ahlin lost another three seconds to Cronin but remained a solid third.

Heading into last night’s final pair of stages where conditions were greasy, Cronin remained on course. Interestingly, two third-place finishes will not be enough for Ahlin to win the title if Cronin achieves his target of winning both legs. That will include five bonus points for his Joker round. There are a further 11 stages in the opening leg that concludes this evening.

Meanwhile, Donegal drivers Declan Boyle (Fiesta R5) and Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) headline Sunday’s Charlie McEnery Motor Services Clare Rally based in Ennis with nine stages in north Clare. Boyle is striving for the consistency he had when winning a championship double a few years ago.

Kelly has only made sporadic appearances this season. Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) is amongst the top six that also features Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5), Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Skoda Fabia R5), and Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC).

Without national championship status on this occasion, the Clare organisers have managed to attract a fine entry of almost 110 crews.

The top 10 also features John Stone (Ford Fiesta S2500), Owen Murphy (Skoda Fabia S2000) and Escort duo of Ed O’Callaghan and Barry Meade. O’Callaghan and Meade and Cavan’s Gary McPhillips (Escort) will be aiming to win the prestigious Colin McRae “If in Doubt, Flat Out” Perpetual Memorial Cup for the top Modified competitor.

Elsewhere, Matt Griffin and his Clearwater Racing teammates Mok Weng Sun and Kieta Sawa compete in the sixth round of the World Endurance Championship at the Circuit of Americas, Austin, Texas tomorrow.

Their championship hopes are still very much alive, second with four rounds left.

Twohig’s Hill, Clonakilty is the venue for the West Cork Motorcycle Club’s Hillclimb on Sunday. Last year’s winner Killeagh’s Michael Browne (Yamaha R6) leads the maximum 60 entries.

The first of the four timed runs gets underway after the 11am practice sessions.

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