BY MARTIN WALSH
KEITH Cronin has re-launched his rallying career and, along with his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin, will contest this year’s Prestone British Rally Championship with M-Sport in the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5.
The Ballylickey driver, who already has three British titles under his belt, will compete in all seven rounds beginning with Border Counties Rally in two weeks time.
Cronin will be the lead driver in this team.
The Fiesta will be shod with DMACK tyres that claimed the championship laurels last year and sport an M-Sport livery that draws inspiration from those made popular by Ott Tanak and Sebastien Ogier in the World Rally Championship.
It’s widely recognised that Cronin should be competing at a high level but the lack of funding has seen the former Billy Coleman award winner and West Cork Sports Star of the Year winner struggle to put the required budgets together.
The current Irish Tarmac champion will be keen to embellish his potential as he makes his debut with the M-Sport team.
Cronin won his first British title in 2009 ending a 35-year wait since Billy Coleman became the first Irish driver to win the series. Cronin also won in 2010 and 2012.
Just a few weeks ago Cronin debuted a Fiesta R5 to third place in the Carrick on Suir Forest Rally. He will compete in next week’s Malcolm Wilson Rally as preparation for his BRC outing with the Blue Oval.
‘I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and to be working with M-Sport as we chase success on the British Rally Championship,’ he said.
‘It’s a fantastic series and I can’t wait to be back competing in the championship.
‘I’m really excited about the Fiesta R5. I’ve not had a lot of seat time, hopefully it won’t take us long to find our feet. It’s also great to have DMACK on board. The level of development that they are undertaking is really impressive, and it’s great to be involved.’
Meanwhile, Macroom’s Gerard Quinn, Senior Manager at Ford Performance said: ‘Ford is the most successful manufacturer in the British Rally Championship (winning 19 titles) so it’s appropriate that one of the championships most successful drivers, Keith Cronin, will return to the series in a Ford Fiesta R5 in 2017.
‘I am proud that a fellow Cork resident will be competing in one of the most prestigious championships in rallying today. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ford in Ireland and Henry’s ancestral home is also in West Cork so it is fitting that a driver from the locality will be defending Ford honours in the British Rally Championship this year.’