BY MARTIN WALSH
KEITH Cronin completes his participation in this season’s British Rally Championship on Saturday’s Newry-based Modern Tyres Ulster Rally.
The nine-stage, 93-mile final encounter, the seventh round of the campaign, will also decide the destiny of the series with Welsh aces Matt Edwards and Osian Pryce vying for the title. Edwards is seeking his third British title while Pryce is in search of a maiden title, as is his Killarney co-driver Noel O’Sullivan.
The mathematics are quite simple. With the series based on the best five results from seven events, Edwards must win or take maximum championship points to lift the title. Otherwise, Pryce will become champion.
For Cronin, the event offers a different prospect. Although he is a former winner of the event (2017) the terrain is in a much different location. It will also be his first appearance on board the Hankook liveried car on a sealed surface event.
‘It will be nice to get back on tarmac, for sure. Obviously, the gravel (events) haven’t gone as well as we would have wished. We will have a test beforehand but it will be limited. Results haven’t gone our way, but there have been snippets in between where we have been there or thereabouts when everything is working for us,’ Cronin explained.
‘There was one stage on the Trackrod Rally, and I know it was only one, where everything jelled and we were right on the pace. This year is all about development of the Hankook tyres. Yes, it is what it is, but it was the right way to go back rallying.’
Cronin isn’t bothered about the weight of expectation on his rally return even though he has his own expectations and still wants to do well. One of the principle issues is the development of the tyre on wet gravel and that is key to his involvement. He is also aware that were it not for the Hankook support, he would not be rallying this year.
On the Ulster, he added, ‘I actually don’t know any of the terrain as when I won before it was based in Armagh. Daniel (his brother) did it in 2019 but didn’t have a great rally that day, but his pace this year has increased greatly. We have discussed it alright. I will be happy if our pace is at the cutting edge.’
The rally will be streamed to a global audience and coverage will be transmitted on the event’s official website, www.ulsterrally.com. It will also be shown on its Facebook page for some ten hours this Saturday.
Last Saturday Rosscarbery co-driver Aileen Kelly and Down’s David Crossen (Ford Escort) retired after just four stages of the Rallynuts Rally in Builth Wells in mid-Wales. They were up to third in class after the morning’s opening three stages. However, their Escort developed throttle cable problems during SS 4 and even though they managed to finish the stage, they retired on the road section.