It will be the fifth different car on the BRC for the Ballylickey driver — his four titles wins came with Mitsubishi, Subaru, Citroen and Ford.
Following negotiations that began last January, Cronin’s itinerary will also feature another WRC event, RallyRACC Catalunya — Rally de Espana. The campaign is being supported by Hyundai Customer Racing Team along with support from Michelin Tyres via Midland Tyres. Cronin, 31, retains his long-time sponsors, Tria Oil, Michael O’Brien Plant Hire and Cremin Coaches. The car will be run by the Letterkenny based outfit PCRS (Philip Case Rally Sport).
The deal has come about after discussions between five times Irish Rally champion Eugene Donnelly, Hyundai and former European Police Rally champion Donal O’Donovan, a member of the Cronin team.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out again, physically I am probably in the best shape I’ve ever been and that’s important,” said Cronin.”
The BRC begins next week with the Pirelli Rally but Cronin’s car will not be ready in time. Instead, he will use the Hyundai i20 R5-N Donnelly has driven in the opening rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship; the car, also run by PCRS, will be converted to gravel specification.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Four Seasons Hotel Monaghan Rally is set to be a fascinating contest given the entry contains several Irish Tarmac and National Championship double winners. Indeed, the top trio are the most recent to have secured the elusive double. Top seed is local hero Sam Moffett, on-board his CombiLift Fiesta, with Cork co-driver Karl Atkinson he will relish the prospect of battling with Donegal/Monaghan combinations of Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (Ford Focus WRC) and Declan Boyle/James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC). Without the shackles on championship points (it is not a round of the Triton series this time) they can all push to the limit.
However, another driver who will fancy his chances is Josh Moffett, the younger brother of Sam, who will drive a Fiesta WRC, the sibling rivalry is nothing new but on home ground it will be extra special.
Another Monaghan ace, triple national champion Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) openly admits he finds it difficult to match the pace of the aforementioned but still enjoys competing. Former Tarmac champion Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) is also on the entry and having retired from leading the recent Easter Rally, will be keen to get back into action.
Elsewhere, Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Ford Fiesta R5), Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC), Donegal’s John O’Donnell, who has switched to a Subaru WRC and fellow countyman Stuart Darcy (Darrian T90) round out the top 10. It’s an equally impressive entry in the Modified category with Darcy facing the potent Escorts of Chris Armstrong, Gary McPhillips, Damian Toner, Frank Kelly, Adrian Hetherington and Johno Doogan. The first car away from rally headquarters, the Four Seasons Hotel is at 10am for the day’s nine stages with the finish timed for 5pm.
Elsewhere, in motorcycling, the first drag race of the season is Sunday’s West Cork Motorcycle Club’ s event at Halfway near Ballinhassig. Utilising a section of the N71, reigning champion Craig Mallabone (Suzuki Hayabusa) from Sutton (England) returns to defend his title. The local challenge is likely to be spearheaded byRylane’s Kieran O’Driscoll (Suzuki GSXR).