irish tarmac rally championship

Cronin Opts For Full Irish Over BRC Return

Keith Cronin has chosen to redirect his focus toward the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC) this season, foregoing what was widely anticipated to be a return to the British Rally Championship (BRC)

The announcement of Cronin's return to the ITRC has suprised a few, considering the widespread belief that he would be making a bid for a fifth British title to equal the record held by Jimmy McRae.

The choice to focus on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship appears to align strategically with Cronin's work commitments, making it a pragmatic decision for the seasoned driver. The convenience of having three rounds located within close proximity to his home minimizes travel demands, allowing Cronin to effectively manage both his rallying pursuits and his role in the family business.

Official Press Release:

CRONIN RETURNS TO IRISH RALLYING FOR TARMAC TITLE TILT

Former Irish Tarmac Rally Champion, Keith Cronin, will return to the series this year in a bid to reclaim the crown he previously won in 2016.  The West Cork driver, who has concentrated on the British Rally Championship in recent seasons, is seeded at No. 3 for this weekend’s Galway International Rally, the opening round of the 2024 Tarmac series, and he will drive a Ford Fiesta Rally 2 throughout the campaign.  Cronin will be guided is his quest by co-driver, Mikie Galvin, who was also alongside for the championship victory eight years ago.

The Galway opener boasts a very strong field, with six Tarmac titles recorded among the top ten seeds, and Cronin is quick to acknowledge how competitive it will be.  “The pace last year was extremely hot, the likes of Callum Devine and Josh Moffett moved to a new level and drove each other on throughout the season”, he noted.  “They did a lot of rallying, they were out on many of the National rounds as well”.  Devine will be equipped with the same Volkswagen Polo which brought him to victory in the 2023 ITRC, while Moffett has entered his familiar Hyundai i20 R5 but is expected to be seen in a newly acquired Citroën C3 Rally 2.  

Cronin too is making a switch, moving on from the Polo he used on British Championship events over the past couple of years in favour of the latest-spec Fiesta from M-Sport, Ford’s official rally partner.  He is confident that it is the right decision: “On the two British rounds we did last year where Adrian Fourmaux was out in the Fiesta, even taking into account that's he's a professional, World-class driver, it was plain to see the progress that M-Sport had made with the car, and there were further upgrades later in the year, plus they did a test in Ireland after that to pin down the set up for our roads.  While the Polo is still a very good car, and was from the outset, there is no longer any ongoing development of it, and there hasn't been for some years.  I think the difference will show”.  Cronin’s Fiesta will be run by Tom Gahan Motorsport, which is a continuation of the arrangement that was in place with the Polo.

As regards predicting the outcome in Galway, a rally he won in 2013, Cronin is circumspect:  “I wouldn't be making any promises about our result, I haven't been out on an event since May, many of the other lads were in action all year”.  He also identifies three-time British champion, Matt Edwards, who is undertaking his first full ITRC campaign, as a particular threat.  “He has had some great results in Ireland in recent years, he was second on the Donegal International last June, and he won the Ulster Rally a few years ago.  He may not have done many events in 2023, but he's in and out of cars constantly with his set-up and tutoring work, he'll be on the pace straight away and I expect he'll certainly challenge for the win”.

Cronin’s return to the ITRC may have been somewhat unexpected, as it was widely believed that he would take another tilt at a fifth British title, but he must balance his sport with commitments to the family business, as he explained: “The Tarmac Championship suits me this year from a work point of view, three of the rounds are within about an hour and a quarter of home, the West Cork Rally obviously, and the Killarney Rally of the Lakes and the Cork ‘20’, so that reduces the time I have to be away from the business overall during the year.  I'm certainly looking forward to the challenge, I haven't done the full Tarmac Championship since 2016, the year we won it.  That was the first time the World Rally Cars couldn't score points, but they were still winning the events, so even though we had maximum scores there was no outright win, so it would be nice to take one or two this year.  We did win out the Ulster Rally in 2017 when the Tarmac and British Championships overlapped, but we weren't actually registered for Tarmac points that season”.  

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