CORK rally ace Keith Cronin returns to rallying this weekend after a lapse of just over three years.
The Ballylickey driver has secured support from Korean tyre manufacturer Hankook to compete in four gravel rounds of the British Rally Championship along with the end of season tarmac Ulster Rally in Newry.
Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin will compete in a latest specification Ford Fiesta R5 Mk II run by NPL Rally Hire and Preparation and will use this weekend’s M-Sport Rally in Greystoke Forest in Cumbria as a shakedown.
They also have support from M-Sport, their BRC championship winning team in 2017.
With four BRC titles, Cronin shares that record with the late Roger Clark and is just one away from the all-time record held by the legendary Jimmy McRae.
Meanwhile, Cronin’s programme will also be underpinned by many of his former sponsors including the Michael O'Brien Group of Companies, Rentokil Initial, Cremin Coaches, Cronin’s Centra and Cronin’s Homevalue.
O’Brien is a native of Churchtown in north-Cork and has built up a very successful business network in the United Kingdom.
With his last gravel rally in April of 2018 and his last event in June of the same year Cronin is adopting a sensible approach.
“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 won his first British crown in 2009 in a Mitsubishi prepared by Ballymakeery rally preparation expert Colm Grant of TTEC Rally PREP.
Further wins followed in 2010 (Subaru), 2012 (Citroen) and 2017 (Ford Fiesta).
The latter was an absorbing battle with Welsh driver and current British champion Matt Edwards.
The BRC series kicked off last month with an event an Oulton Park that was won by Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5 Mk. 11).
This weekend’s opposition, all in various makes of Ford manufactured cars, include English driver Matt Wilson (Ford Fiesta R3), Rhys Yates (Fiesta R5 Mk.11), Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Fiesta WRC), Hugh Hunter (Ford Focus WRC) and Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings in a right-hand drive Ford Fiesta R5.
Between now and late November Cronin will compete in six events: M-Sport Rally, Greystoke Forest, Cumbria (3-4 July); Nicky Grist Rally, Builth Wells, Powys (July 10); Grampian Rally, Crathes, Aberdeenshire (August 14); Trackrod Rally, Scarborough, Yorkshire (September 24/25); Cambrian Rally, Llandudno, Conwy (October 30) and Ulster Rally, Newry (November 20).
Elsewhere, Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen Ds3 R5) is amongst the entry for Sunday’s Wexford M.C.’s rallysprint in New Ross.