BY MARTIN WALSH
FOUR-TIME British Rally champion Keith Cronin has concluded a deal with Korean tyre manufacturer Hankook that will see him return to the series in next week’s second round, the Nicky Grist Rally in the Welsh forests.
The deal, inked in recent days, will allow the Ballylickey driver contest the four gravel rounds of the 2021 British Rally Championship, along with the season-ending tarmac surface Ulster Rally in November.
Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin will compete in the latest specification Ford Fiesta Rally 2 that will be run by NPL Rally Hire and Preparation and they will participate in this weekend’s M-Sport Rally in Greystoke Forest in Cumbria as a shakedown for next week’s BRC opener.
Along with the support of Hankook, Cronin will also have additional backing from Michael O'Brien Group of Companies, Rentokil Initial, Cremin Coaches, Cronin’s Centra and Cronin’s Homevalue.
The Ballylickey driver won the last of his four BRC titles in 2017 with M-Sport, who are also involved this time around. He hasn’t competed on a gravel rally since April 2018 and is pragmatic on his chances.
‘I haven't competed in a rally since June 2018 (Ypres Rally in Belgium) so my expectations must stay realistic. The main priority of the programme is to develop the latest range of Hankook’s gravel tyres. That said, I’m really looking forward to getting back out and I’m very grateful to Hankook and our other supporters for this opportunity,’ Cronin said. An Irish Tarmac rally champion in 2016, Cronin will wait until the season-end for an outing on sealed surfaces with the Newry-based Ulster Rally in November.
Cronin’s itinerary is as follows: M-Sport Rally, Greystoke Forest, Cumbria (July 3rd-4th); Nicky Grist Rally, Builth Wells, Powys (July 10th); Grampian Rally, Crathes, Aberdeenshire (August 14th); Trackrod Rally, Scarborough, Yorkshire (September 24th-25th); Cambrian Rally, Llandudno, Conwy (October 30th) and Ulster Rally, Newry (November 20th).