Cork’s Keith Cronin will debut a different car in the British Rally Championship as he bids to equal the legendary Jimmy McCrae as a five-time winner of the series.
All his previous bids have proven successful and tomorrow he campaigns a PCRS-prepared Hyundai i20 R5 on the eight-stage, Carlisle-based Pirelli Rally.
The 31-year-old Ballylickey driver had a brief test on Wednesday to familiarise himself with his new surroundings and all went according to plan. With the support of the Hyundai
Customer Racing Team, along with Michelin Tyres through Irish supplier Midland Tyres, Cronin will be happy with a top-three finish tomorrow.
In his four championship-winning seasons, Cronin has had four different co-drivers Killarney’s Mikie Galvin, who was alongside him for last year’s thrilling success, remains in the co-driving role and is an important factor in Cronin’s drive for five.
Cronin is first away and has some familiar names in his mirror. Former champion, Scotland’s David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5) knows the Kielder forests well and will pose a big threat, as will Derry’s Marty McCormack (also in a Skoda), who has Mallow’s David Moynihan on the notes. Completing the top quintet are Welsh ace Matt Edwards, who is another contender, as is Rhys Yates and Belfast’s Jonny Greer, all in Fiesta R5s.
In the Junior category, Billy Coleman award winner Callum Devine (Fiesta R2) is the top seed, with opposition that includes fellow Northern Ireland drivers William Creighton and James Wilson, Donegal’s Marty Gallagher, all in Peugeot 208 R2s, and Cork’s Kevin Horgan (Skoda Fabia R2). Norwegian Oscar Solberg (Fiesta R2) — son of WRC competitor Henning — is also on the entry.
Tomorrow’s first stage, Pundershaw, starts just before noon.
Meanwhile, Waterford’s Craig Breen (Citroen DS3 WRC) returns to the World Rally Championship on the Rally Argentina, round five of the series, that began late last evening with the 1.9 km stage, Villa Carlos Paz.
Breen hasn’t competed since finishing second in Sweden in February, while teammates, Dungannon’s Kris Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle, aim to better their
season’s best result of third place (Mexico).
For reigning and five-time champion Sebastien Ogier, the rally has a special significance, as its the only round of the WRC he hasn’t won. This will be his ninth attempt, while it’s 16 years since M-Sport last won in Argentina.
Meanwhile, last year’s Young Racing Driver of the Year award winner Jordan Dempsey makes his international racing debut at this weekend’s Virginia International Raceway, the opening round of the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda. The race has attracted a 37-car grid.
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