BY MARTIN WALSH
STAR local rally driver and four times British Rally Champion Keith Cronin (31) from Ballylickey will campaign a Hyundai i20 R5 in this year’s British Rally Championship that includes a round of the World Rally Championship – the Dayinsure Rally GB and the Ypres Rally, a counting event in the European Rally Championship (ERC).
In addition, Keith, from Ballylickey, County Cork and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin will also contest the WRC event, RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de Espana.
The campaign is being supported by Hyundai Customer Racing Team along with assistance from Michelin Tyres via Midland Tyres.
The car will be run by the Letterkenny-based outfit PCRS (Philip Case Rally Sport). Keith has retained his three long time sponsors, Tria Oil, Michael O’Brien Plant Hire and Cremin Coaches.
The deal has taken several months to come to fruition following initial discussions between five-time Irish Rally champion Eugene Donnelly, Hyundai and members of the Cronin team and in particular, Donal O’Donovan, a former European Police Rally champion.
Cronin is regarded as one of the most talented Irish rally drivers and in 2017 he won his fourth British title in dramatic style at the 138.com Rally Isle of Man. Indeed, his BRC wins have come in four different cars - Mitsubishi, Subaru, Citroen and Ford, illustrating his ability to work with any manufacturer or their support teams.
'I’m really looking forward to getting out again. Physically I am probably in the best shape I’ve ever been and that’s important as well. The BRC campaign involves a round of the WRC and the ERC and then there is Rally Spain, so it’s an exciting venture. I’m looking forward to working with PCRS and along with the support of the Hyundai Customer Racing Team and Michelin Tyres through Midland Tyres, I think we have an exceptional package,' said Keith.
Commenting, Eugene Donnelly said, 'I’m delighted to be involved with Keith, we have worked tirelessly over the last few months get all this in place. I saw the opportunity to get him (Keith) into a Hyundai car and I’m really pleased that we have got everything over the line. Hyundai were very keen on Keith, not just about his obvious talent, but also on his ability in terms of testing and development. '
Meanwhile, Andrew Johns, Senior Sales Associate, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing remarked, 'We are very pleased to have Keith and Mikie in an i20 R5 for the British Rally Championship. To have such a successful crew and team make the decision to run the car in the championship is a huge honour. In the combination of the crew and the car we are confident that the team has a winning formula for the campaign ahead.
'Obviously, with his previous victories in the championship we know Keith can be at the top of the times again this year in an incredibly competitive championship. With the first rally of the year fast approaching, we must turn our attention to working together with the crew and team, supporting them as they challenge for the rally win, and the overall title.'
With the Hyundai i20 R5 that Cronin will drive for the season unlikely to be ready for next week’s opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Pirelli Rally, Keith will campaign the Hyundai i20 that Eugene Donnelly has driven in the opening two rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship. The car, also run by PCRS, will be converted to gravel specification.
A former winner of the Pirelli Rally, Keith hasn’t competed since last September.
'Yes, it's good to be back, we will have a test early next week and then it is straight to the Pirelli.'