BALLYLICKEY’S Keith Cronin can clinch the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship if he wins the final round – the Acesigns Signmakers Cork ‘20’ International Rally in early October.
Following the outcome of last weekend’s John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally in Derry, the Cork ‘20’ will be a winner-takes-all confrontation between Cronin and Tyrone’s Alastair Fisher.
There was late drama for Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin, who had to be content with fifth place – third in championship terms – while Fisher and co-driver Gordon Noble netted second overall (first placed championship points) in a rally that was won by Welshman Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5), who also clinched the British Rally Championship.
In the context of the ITC and with dropped scores taken into consideration, whilst also allowing for the addition of Cork ‘20’ points that carry a 50 per cent bonus, Cronin is just two points behind Fisher heading into the final decider.
In Cork, the difference between first and second placed points will be three points, hence the winner-takes-all scenario.
At the conclusion of the 14-stage event in Derry, Evans/Parry finished one minute and 7.6 seconds ahead of Fisher/Noble (Ford Fiesta R5).
Halfway through Saturday’s eight stages, Cronin held second place and was the top ITC registered competitor, however transmission woes that necessitated a replacement gearbox dropped the Ballylickey ace to fifth, following the incursion of a one minute and 50 second time penalty. However, the 12 points gleamed from the event was sufficient to keep his championship bid intact.
Speaking after the the Ulster Rally, Cronin said: ‘It was the toughest rally I did in a long time. For instance, take Cod’s Head stage down here, it wouldn’t be a patch on how tough the ones in Ulster were. Corner after corner with bumps thrown in the middle of them, it was easy to make a mistake so it required great concentration.’
The Ballylickey driver thought better than getting involved in a battle with rally leader Elfyn Evans.
‘I have been in these positions before with Mark (Higgins) and Gwyndaf (Evans) and on other events abroad. We were always able to show good speed, it wasn’t going to help me win the championship and there was always the risk that I would go off trying to beat him,’ Cronin said.
Considering the results from Killarney and the Circuit, Cronin admits he would have settled for his current position beforehand.
‘In Donegal I knew I could not afford to drop another score. Yes, we were going well but I still knew I had to finish. I didn’t get involved in a battle with Manus (Kelly, who won the rally), and I would have taken this position beforehand.’
Ahead of the title decider, Cronin added: ‘I would like to do an event or failing that, a really good test.’
Meanwhile, Cronin’s team mates Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick (Citroen DS3 R5) netted their best result of the season taking third overall, 17.8 seconds further behind Fisher/Noble.
Scotland’s David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5) experienced a few overshoots as he finished fourth ahead of Cronin.
Derry’s Marty McCormack (Skoda S2000) was slowed by a lack of power, he was sixth with Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Fiesta) seventh. Garry Jennings retired his Mitsubishi Mirage with brake troubles.
Results: 1. E Evans/C Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 11m 15.4s; 2. A Fisher/G Noble (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 12m 23.0s; 3. J Greer/K Riddick (Citroen DS3 R5) 2h 12m 40.8s; 4. D Bogie/J O’Reilly (Skoda Fabia R5) 2h 13m 15.8s; 5. K Cronin/M Galvin (Citroen DS3 R5 ) 2h 13m 22.8s; 6. M McCormack/D Moynihan (Skoda Fabia S2000) 2h 15m 47.3s; 7. J Moffett/J Rowan (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 17m 09.1s; 8. R Yates/T Woodburn (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 17m 10.8s; 9. J. McGonigle/C Geaney (Skoda Fabia S2000) 2h 17m 44.6s; 10. T Cave/J Morgan (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 18m 09.7s.