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Kris Meeke leads Irish charge after crash ends Keith Cronin's World Rally Championship bid

By Sammy Hamill

Keith Cronin's return to the World Rally Championship has been put on hold following an accident in the build-up to this week's Rally Portugal.

The triple British champion, runner-up in the Junior (or WRC3 division) in 2013, was scheduled to start his challenge for the WRC2 title in Portugal with a new R5 Citroen DS3.

But the Cork driver crashed during pre-event testing on Monday and, with the car too badly damaged to repair in time, he has had to withdraw.

Even with Cronin out, however, there is still a strong Irish representation led, of course, by Rally Argentina winners Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the factory Citroen DS3 WRC.

But Cronin's absence means the anticipated showdown with fellow Irish driver Craig Breen will have to wait for another day.

Breen, leader of the European Championship following his Circuit of Ireland victory at Easter, continues to alternate between the two series and is expected to be one of the front runners in the WRC2 division in his factory-supported Peugeot 208 R5.

Another British champion from Ireland, Daniel McKenna, hopes to step up his WRC3 campaign in his R3 Citroen DS3 after an encouraging but ultimately fruitless debut on the Monte Carlo Rally where he was sidelined by gearbox failure. But no-one has worked harder or prepared more rigorously than McKenna - in the gym, in the hunt for sponsors which, uniquely, include Monaghan County Council, on the airwaves and on social media.

"I'm competing at a level where I can't leave anything to chance," said the former Pirelli Star Driver from Scotshouse.

McKenna and co-driver Andrew Grennan will be up against another rising Irish star, Dean Raftery, who makes his WRC3 debut in a similar Citroen with John Higgins co-driving.

And there are Irish co-drivers dotted all through the entry list including Chris Patterson, Michael Orr, Marshall Clarke and Stephen McAuley.

Belfast Telegraph

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