Belfast Telegraph

Cronin snatches British title thanks to Matt finish to Manx

 

By Sammy Hamill

After seven rallies, 102 special stages and hundreds of competitive miles, Keith Cronin is British rally champion for a fourth time - by just 10th of a second.

In an extraordinary finish in the Isle of Man, Cronin and co-driver Mikey Galvin in their M-Sport Ford Fiesta snatched the title from under the nose of Sweden's Fredrik Ahlin with victories on both legs of the Manx event to win the season-long series by a single point.

And there was a double Irish celebration with Callum Devine and Keith Moriarty taking the British junior championship with back-to-back wins.

But as the champagne was splashed on the podium in Douglas the toast had to be Matt Edwards who made Cronin's success possible by demoting Ahlin to third place in both legs. Yet the Welsh driver almost ripped the title from Cronin's grasp by coming within a split second of winning the second leg.

It had all being going to plan with Cronin dominating the first leg to take the maximum points haul he needed and was on course to repeat the performance on leg two until the 19th of the 21 stages. There he was blocked by a slower car and saw his lead wiped out and Edwards edge ahead by 9.5 seconds.

With the penultimate stage cancelled only the final 13-mile test, which incorporated part of TT course, remained but somehow Cronin pulled the deficit back to beat Edwards by 9.6 seconds. The title was his by the tiniest of margins.

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry," said the Cork man as the result was confirmed. "It was some contest and that man Edwards, while we depended on him to stay in second place, he nearly pipped us!"

Meanwhile, Devine was pocketing a £30,000 prize as British junior champion after winning his shoot-out with fellow Ulster driver William Creighton. They were neck-and-neck going into the season finale but Creighton suffered a nightmare rally, going off the road twice and his R2 Peugeot suffering a puncture.

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