BY MARTIN WALSH
WHAT another great weekend for West Cork sport as Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin clinched the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship by virtue of his fourth place finish on the Acesigns Cork ‘20’ International Rally that provided a dramatic conclusion to the series.
Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin led by half a second on the opening stage. Title rivals Tyrone’s Alastair Fisher and his co-driver Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5) took up the lead role on the second stage but a stage later Cronin/Galvin were back within three tenths of a second of the lead.
Fisher crashed out on the fourth stage and Cronin eased off knowing that a top three-championship finish would be enough. Cronin ended the day in top spot as he continued to focus on the championship.
On Suday, his management plan was being executed perfectly as Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5) moved in front after Stage 11.
However, on Stage 12 there was drama for Cronin when his Citroen DS3 R5 sustained a front wheel puncture, the time lost dropped him to fourth – but he remained on course for the Tarmac title as another rival, Sam Moffett needed to win the rally to have any hope of denying Cronin.
As the battle for event victory raged on Roy White (Fiesta WRC) punched in the best time on the penultimate stage to close to within 3.5 seconds of leader Josh Moffett – but that was as close as he got as Josh went on to take his first ever victory in a round of the Tarmac series.
Josh’s brother Sam, also in a Fiesta with Bandon’s Karl Atkinson as co-driver, took second 4.6 seconds behind and 1.7 seconds ahead of Roy White and his Dromtarriffe co-driver James O’Brien.
No doubt about the big winner though, Keith Cronin, after a season where the talented West Corkman displayed great ability and guided by Galvin, he is the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Champion – the first Cork driver to win the title since Billy Coleman won all of 32 years ago.