Cronin will play percentage game in bid to retain title

BRITISH RALLY champion, Keith Cronin is not that accustomed to playing the percentage game, mostly because the Cork driver hasn’t been required to adopt such a role.

Beginning this evening at the International Rally Yorkshire in Scarborough, the final round of the Dulux Trade series, it is exactly the strategy Cronin is planning as he bids to secure back-to-back titles.

A year ago he created history by becoming the first Irish driver to win the series since Billy Coleman in 1974. Now, he is on the brink of another success as he aims to continue a remarkable sequence that has seen Mark Higgins and Guy Wilks win respective doubles in 2005/2006 and 2007/2008.

Making the best possible start to his title defence with victory on the Bulldog International Rally of North Wales, Cronin then retired within sight of victory on the Pirelli Rally. That put his bid on the back foot, and he had to play catch up with title rival and former champion, Gwyndaf Evans until the recent Rally Northern Ireland (Ulster Rally). Evans retired with engine trouble, ironically, after Cronin was penalised for a timing infringement.

Meanwhile, and with great consistency, Northern Ireland’s Jonny Greer was collecting points and he will begin this evening as leader of the series. However, with dropped scores coming into effect and 50% bonus points on offer in Scarborough, Cronin will land the title with a top six finish.

On Rally Northern Ireland, Cronin and the TEG sport outfit decided to concentrate on the championship as they took second placed points behind Craig Breen. A similar situation is likely to unfold this evening.

Cronin said: “I will see what the pace is like on Friday night and take it from there, I don’t need to win, but I still cannot afford to make any mistakes. There is still a good bit of rallying to do but it would be great to win the championship for the second time.”

Meanwhile, buoyed by his success in Rally Northern Ireland, where he became the youngest winner of a round of the BRC, Craig Breen, in the Kick Energy Ford Fiesta S2000, remarked: “I’ve tasted success, winning Rally Northern Ireland was fantastic but I want to keep the run going and win on the gravel surface in Yorkshire.”

Another rising star, Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher has accepted the invitation to drive the JRM prepared “national” specification Mitsubishi EvoX.

Other Irish entries are Daniel McKenna (Mitsubishi), Eamonn Boland (Mitsubishi Evo IX) and the Citroen duo of Mark Donnelly and Robbie Barrable, who are chasing down the UK Citroen Racing Trophy. In the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, it’s a straight fight between series leader Jonny Greer and Daniel Sigurdarson. This evening’s stage in Langdale Forest begins at 7pm and there are eight more stages tomorrow before the finish in Scarborough at 6pm.

Defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champions Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Peugeot) tackle the penultimate round of the series in Sanremo in Italy today. The Tyrone driver, who continues to be linked to the Mini WRC drive in 2011, has stated his desire to win this and the final round, Rally Scotland. Niall McShea will campaign the Proton Satria S2000.

The Hankook Northern Ireland Rally Championship continues tomorrow with the Bushwhacker Rally in Omagh.

Motorsport Ireland has informed its affiliated clubs that the Motor Sport Commission (MSC) have endorsed the proposal from the recent Competitions Advisory Committee (CAC) to set aside the draft “Way Forward” document in its present format and broaden the existing committee to include two representatives from each of the five regions plus one from the IRCA.

However, the “MI General Code of Conduct,” as published in the Motor Sport Bulletin, is to form part of the work of the new Committee. This appears to be at variance with the proposal of the CAC meeting that stated it was to be set aside. Yesterday, MI president, Joe Corcoran dismissed the ambiguity, he also acknowledged receipt of a letter of resignation from MCS member, Robert Lyttle.

Meanwhile, the proposal to disband the investigation into matters arising from the 2009 Donegal International Rally didn’t find favour. The MSC have decided to allow the investigation to continue and will release the findings. The investigation could have implications for the sponsorship of one of the biggest events in Irish motorsport.

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