Belfast Telegraph

Cronin needs better luck on Rally Isle of Man return

By Sammy Hamill

He may have been beaten but the 2009 Rally Isle of Man was the scene of, perhaps, Keith Cronin’s finest drive.

Only a late puncture robbed him of a memorable victory over Manx master Mark Higgins.

It didn’t stop the 24-year-old from Co Cork from becoming British champion or from earning himself a free run in defending his title this year with the Pirelli Subaru team.

But the transition from home-prepared Mitsubishi to a TEG Sport run Subaru has not gone smoothly and Cronin returns to the Isle of Man languishing in sixth place in the title race with one victory to his credit and a series of accidents on his CV.

It is an Ulsterman, Jonny Greer, who leads the standings with a seven-point lead over former champion Gwyndaf Evans with Cronin a further four points adrift.

There is still time to turn the situation around but he and the TEG Sport team must get to the bottom of the suspension problems which have plagued their N15 Subaru.

Cronin is hopeful rather than confident.

“We did some testing last weekend and think we have isolated the handling problem that has been making our lives difficult,” he said. “But fixing the problem may not be so straightforward.”

Although the Manx event is no longer part of the Ireland’s premier series, the Citroen Tarmac championship, Irish drivers will have a big say in the outcome with Cronin, Greer and Alastair Fisher all looking to capitalise on the absence Higgins, a four-time winner of his home rally.

The notable absentee is Craig Breen who has been forced to withdraw while his S2000 Ford Fiesta is rebuilt after his Donegal accident. The Irish also hold a strong hand in the UK Citroen Trophy series with Dubliner Robert Barrable leading from Omagh’s Mark Donnelly.

The rally starts from the TT grandstand in Douglas tomorrow (10.30am) and finishes on Saturday afternoon.

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