Keith Cronin's dream of a step up to the second division of the World championship next season has almost certainly ended after he crashed out of Wales Rally GB.
Needing to beat his last remaining French rival Sebastien Chardonnet to win the Citroen Top Driver award, Cronin came fighting back yesterday after a first leg puncture had dropped him 16 seconds behind Chardonnet and a minute off the WRC3 division lead held by Bryan Bouffier.
On the Myhrein stage he looked to have wiped out the deficit at the halfway point when he led Bouffier, who had suffered a puncture, by two minutes and Chardonnet by over a minute. But then Cronin went off the road, his DS3 Citroen hitting a tree.
With his Fermanagh co-driver Marshall Clarke being taken to hospital as a precaution, Cronin was forced to retire.
Up at the front of the rally, new World champion Sebastien Ogier and his Volkswagen team were in total control at the end of a second leg which saw Citroen in disarray. Both Robert Kubica, who had been chosen ahead of Kris Meeke, and Mikko Hirvonen crashed out. Going into today's third leg, Ogier leads team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 20 seconds.