FOUR-TIME British Rally champion Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin was honoured in Kealkil.
Collins’s pub was a fitting venue, given that Keith has taken up residence close to the village centre in recent weeks. His co-driver, Killarney’s Mikie Galvin, was also present at the function, which was attended by Macroom’s Gerard Quinn, head of Ford Motorsport in Europe, along with many motorsport people and officials from Cork and Kerry.
Against all the odds, Cronin took this year’s title in a pulsating final double round, Rally Isle of Man, where he overcame a 32-points deficit to claim the title by a mere point. All the more intriguing was the fact that he won the final round by just one-tenth of a second to deny the title favourite, Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin (Skoda Fabia R5).
Cronin equalled the record of the legendary Roger Clark as a four-time British champion and is only one short of the all-time record held by another legend, Jimmy McRae. Interestingly, Cronin has created another piece of history as his four BRC titles have been with four different co-drivers and remarkably, in four different cars.
His first title came in 2009 in a Mitsubishi that was prepared by Ballyvourney’s Colm Grant with Greg Shinnors as co-driver. The following season, Keith, in a TEG Sport-prepared Subaru, won the series when he was co-driven by Barry McNulty. In 2012, at the wheel of a David Greer Citroen DS3 R5 and with Marshall Clarke co-driving, Keith netted his third title.
This season, on board an M-Sport prepared-and-run Ford Fiesta R5, Keith completed title number four with Mikie Galvin as co-driver. Last year, the pair won the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship.
Speaking at the reception, Mick Cremin of Cremin Coaches, a loyal backer of Cronin’s campaigns, remarked, ‘This was a big achievement, the fourth time that Keith has won the BRC, he’s won the title with four different teams and in four different cars, that in itself is both a unique and outstanding achievement.
‘Last year, he did the Irish Tarmac Championship for the first time and he won that as well, we still have to have a night out to celebrate that – yet – and perhaps we will go to Caheragh to do that!’
‘Without Gerard Quin, Ford and M-Sport, we would not be here this evening, I can assure you.’
Mick also paid tribute to Donal O’Donovan, who co-ordinated many aspects of Keith’s championship success, and thanked Keith’s co-driver Mikie Galvin, as well as the media for their support, Tria Oil (through Micheál and Kathleen Kirby) for their continued support and hosts, John and Margaret Collins.
He concluded, ‘Finally, I want to say thanks to Danny and Jackie [Keith’s parents], they deserve a great round of applause.’