Punching in the best times on every stage Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin took their new Hyundai i20 R5 to victory in the Rathkeale House Hotel Circuit of Munster Rally.
Keith’s main rival was his younger brother Daniel, who along with his Kilnamartyra co-driver JJ Cremin, brought their Ford Fiesta R5 into second – a minute and 55 seconds behind. On his debut in a Subaru WRC, Limerick’s Ed Synan and co-driver Tom Collins were 33.5 seconds further behind in third.
On the opening stage near Banagh, Keith Cronin was quickest and held a 17.2 second lead from the escorts of Ed O’Callaghan and Vivian Hamill. Ed Synan occupied fourth – some 20.4 seconds off top spot as he had a few overshoots in the McKinstry hired car. Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5), who had one overshoot, narrowly avoided contact with a bridge. PJ McDermott (Subaru WRC) rounded out the top six.
Four times British champion Cronin was also quickest through the remaining two stages of the opening loop and arrived at the Newcastle West service park with a lead of 40.8 seconds. Although he was pleased with the new car he remarked that he could have done with a harder compound tyre while there was a slight glitch with the transmission system through S.S. 3, this was rectified at service.
Meanwhile, his brother Daniel was happy with his performance on stages two and three and slotted into second place. O’Callaghan was 18.3 seconds further behind in third with Subaru debutant Synan next - six-tenths of a second behind his countyman, having stalled the McKinstry hired car on the start line of S.S. 3. Hamill in fifth had issues with the front brakes while he also hit a chicane on the second stage creasing part of the front right wing. McDermott was in sixth.
Out on stage four Keith Cronin also set the pace and did likewise on the next stage to lead his younger brother Daniel by a minute and 14.1 seconds. The Cronin brothers were the only competitors to record a time though S.S. 5 as O’Callaghan, running third on the road, crashed heavily, he needed medical assistance and the emergency services were deployed.
The sixth stage was cancelled as the emergency services were summoned to treat a stage resident and competitors subsequently took the alternative route back to the final service at Newcastle West. Synan had worked his way to third before O’Callaghan’s demise. McDermott slotted into fourth but Hamill retired. An improving Colin Byrne (Escort) was another to benefit from a change of tyres. There was no change on the final loop as Keith Cronin took a fine win, Daniel had an altercation with a chicane bale on the final stage but damage was only cosmetic. Synan was third. Midleton’s Colin Byrne (Escort) was the top two-wheel drive competitor, he survived a massive moment on the penultimate stage.
Matt Griffin and his AF Corse team mates Duncan Cameron and Gianluca de Lorenzi onboard the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE won the Pro-Am category of the fifth round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in France.
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