Cronin begins quest for record equalling third British Rally Championship

Three years ago Cork driver Keith Cronin set a target to win the British Rally Championship.

It could have been ambitious or perhaps modest, the former based on financial resources, the latter on acknowledgement of his talent.

This evening in Scarborough, on the International Rally of Yorkshire, the Ballylickey driver will begin his quest to land a record equalling third title. Cronin bridged a 35-year gap when he became only the second ever Irish driver to win the BRC, following Billy Coleman, who triumphed in 1974.

Cronin’s inaugural title was a home grown effort both in finance and his support team. By beating triple champion, Mark Higgins, he was rewarded with a fully-funded drive to defend his title. Cronin delivered a second title – the only Irish driver to achieve this feat – in a TEG Sport run Subaru.

A move to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge didn’t materialise due to a lack of financial backing but his ability was never in question. Had the WRC Academy series arrived a little earlier, who knows things could have been different.

Late last year, a refreshed Cronin was looking at some outings in this year’s French Citroen series when a chance meeting with London-based north Cork man, Michael O’Brien proved to be the catalyst for a third assault on a new look BRC.

Cronin’s BRC double was achieved in four-wheel drive cars but organisers, in a bid to attract more manufacturers, opted to change the current series to front wheel drive cars only. Cronin’s Citroen DS3 R3 is very competitive and he shares the lead with Welshman Gwyndaf Evans, who has opted out of the event to concentrate on the WRC Academy series.

That leaves Cronin with a four-point lead over another Welsh driver Tom Cave in a similar Citroen. With 50% bonus points on offer Cronin can land the title by finishing in the top eight.

“I’m looking forward to the end of the event and hoping that everything goes alright,” said Cronin.

“In the situation we [with co-driver, Marshall Clarke] are in. We can’t go flat out, it is one where, hopefully, we won’t make any mistakes. If you go too slow, you can also make a mistake. It is important to get that balance right.”

Only Jimmy McRae (five), Roger Clark (four) and Mark Higgins (three) have won more than two BRC titles, a stage this evening and five more tomorrow in the North Yorkshire moors stand in Cronin’s path to join that illustrious trio.

Meanwhile the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Trial starts from Lisburn tomorrow morning. On Sunday, the Laois Sprint at Mondello Park has a 10.15am start, the Cavan Autocross at Latton Quarry, near Cootehill begins at 11am and the Wexford Autotest at Wellingtonbridge begins at 11.30am.

The top ten for next week’s Orchard Motorsport Cork “20” International Rally is as follows: 1 Darragh O’Riordan (Subaru WRC); 2 Darren Gass (Subaru WRC); 3 Garry Jennings (TBA); 4 Denis Cronin (Subaru WRC); 5 Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC); 6 Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC); 7 Donagh Kelly (Subaru WRC); 8 Sam Moffett (Mitsubishi); 9 Roy White (MG S2000) and 10 Frank Kelly (Escort).

The launch of the Killarney Historic Rally takes place tomorrow at the Killarney Racecourse as part of a family fun day between 3pm and 6pm. The Garda Síochána Motor Club’s Mini Stages Rally in Baltinglass (October 14) that will be based at Germaine’s Hotel, will feature last year’s rally winner, Daniel Barry (Mitsubishi) and James Stafford (Darrian). Trevor Culbert (Escort), who won the Laois Heartlands Rally earlier this season will also compete.

The nine round 2012/13 Irish Rallycross Championship begins next week in Pembrey and will feature the introduction of the 600cc JB Buggies.

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