DOUBLE British Rally Champion, Keith Cronin is tipped to ratchet up his bid to clinch a third title as Rally Northern Ireland, the penultimate round of the series and part of the Ulster Rally, gets underway in Antrim early tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. The Ballylickey driver, who won the series in 2009 and 2010, is only two points off the tails of joint leaders, Tom Cave and Elfyn Evans.
Although Cronin drove an R1 class Renault Twingo on the opening round, it’s his association with the Asquith Motorsport outfit and a Citroen DS3 that he has mounted a strong title challenge. Victory in the last round, the Jim Clark International Rally again illustrated that the West Cork driver is equally adept on both gravel and sealed surface events. Over the tarmac roads in Northern Ireland, he is expected to reign supreme over Cave, who is also piloting a Citroen DS3 in the R3 category with Evans in the less powerful Ford Fiesta R2. Mark Donnelly (Renault Twingo) is seeded at three ahead of Tyrone’s, Alastair Fisher (Fiesta R2). Former BRC champion, Guy Wilks will drive a Twingo Renaultsport R2 car with Mallow’s, David Moynihan calling the pacenotes. Longford’s, Tommy Doyle will be co-driven by Millstreet’s, Liam Moynihan, a first cousin of David Moynihan. Doyle/Moynihan debuted the car in last week’s Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally.
The Ulster Rally section that counts towards the Irish Tarmac Championship, includes the Subaru WRC’s of Derek McGarrity, Garry Jennings, Darren Gass and Daragh O’Riordan and Steve Perez (Ford Focus WRC). Midleton’s, O’Riordan is out of the title race following his somewhat hasty withdrawal from the Donegal International Rally after he slid off the road and lost some seven minutes. There is no doubt that had he continued in the Letterkenny event he would have picked up enough points to keep him in the title race. For now, he will just have to see how his pace compares with the rest although the Ulster hasn’t been a happy stomping ground in the past for the Midleton man.
The Ulster is the penultimate round of the ITC campaign that will finish with the Cork “20” International Rally that has 50% bonus points on offer. Gass in his S10 Subaru is eight points ahead of Jennings, who will drive a McKinstry prepared S10 Subaru WRC.
Elsewhere, in the national category, Sorcha Kelly (Rosscarbery) and Sean Hayde (Enniskeane) are the respective co-drivers for Rodney White (Sunbeam) and Declan McNaughton (Escort).
In the Historic section, Millstreet’s, Mark Falvey/Colin Moynihan will campaign a Ford Escort RS1600. Based at Antrim’s Junction 1 retail outlet park, there are six stages this evening (Friday) with a further eight stages on Saturday.
Elsewhere this weekend, the Skibbereen & District Car Club’s Autotest double header at the CH Marine complex at the Marsh Road, Skibbereen starts at 5.30pm on Saturday and at 10.30am on Sunday.