BALLYLICKEY’S Keith Cronin is to make a bid for a record-equalling fifth British Rally Championship crown where he will propel the VW Polo GTi R5 he debuted in the recent Birr Rally. For his ‘Drive for Five’ he will renew his association with tyre manufacturer Hankook and the car will be emblazoned with its livery.
Only the legendary Jimmy McRae has five titles to his name, Cronin currently has four; the same as another legend, Roger Clark. What is unique about Cronin’s four titles is that they were achieved in four different cars. The championship winning years and cars were 2009 – Mitsubishi; 2010 – Subaru Impreza; 2012 – Citroen DS3 R5 and 2017 – Ford Fiesta R5.
Cronin had his first taste of the Polo GTi R5 in the recent Pat Horan Motors Camper Centre of Ireland Birr Rally, the second round of the Triton Showers-backed Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship.
‘In other years I had no seat time in the car prior to the championship and that proved difficult,’ he remarked.
Although Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin retired with a broken propshaft on the penultimate stage, it was a valuable outing nonetheless.
‘I was happy with everything, for sure,’ Cronin said.
‘We made a number of set-up changes and we were going in the right direction with others before the propshaft gave way. We lessened the pressure in the tyres for the second run and it made a difference. It was my first time using the tyres in dry conditions and (our times) we were there or thereabouts.’
He added, ‘We got close (to Josh Moffett and others) fairly quickly and the car felt good. It was great to get an event under our belts. I was braking a bit too early in places on the first stage. We can also fine-tune our pacenotes as the gearing of the Polo is different to the Fiesta.’
The first round of the BRC is the Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton on April 23rd/24th.
Fortunately, this year there are no clashes between the BRC and rounds of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and that will also facilitate Keith’s younger brother Daniel to continue to drive the same car in the Tarmac series. Indeed, his next outing in the ITRC is next weekend’s Ballymena-based Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland Rally (April 15/16).