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Cronin gives up hopes of title as top two pull out of Ulster Rally

 

By Sammy Hamill

The Ulster Rally has been rocked by a double blow - the late withdrawal of the top two drivers in the entry list, Keith Cronin and Sam Moffett.

The exit of British champion Cronin will spell the end of his hopes of a fifth title as he already trails leader Matt Edwards by 20 points. As late as Tuesday there were plans for the Cork driver to test his R5 Hyundai today in preparation for tomorrow afternoon's start in Antrim.

He was unavailable to explain what has gone wrong but tweeted he was withdrawing "due to last minute unexpected budgetary issues".

The John Mulholland Ulster event, which Cronin won last year, represented his best chance to close a 20-point gap on leader Edwards as he chases a record-equalling fifth British title.

Moffett has pulled out because of business commitments. He is the reigning Irish Tarmac champion and leader of the series again by one point from his younger brother Josh.

"We're flat out with the business at the moment and unfortunately I can't spare the time to get ready for a rally like the Ulster," he said.

Moffett also said Josh would take over his R5 Ford Fiesta for the event so his own car could remain in gravel specification for the next round of the Irish forestry championship, the Lakeland Stages in Fermanagh on September 1.

In a first for the Ulster Rally, which starts from Antrim Castle Gardens tomorrow lunchtime, the organisers have published the programme on line and it is free to download from their website.

Meanwhile, Craig Breen will look to get his season back on track when he leads the Citroen challenge on Rally Germany which starts tonight.

The two-time Circuit of Ireland winner has had a disappointing run of results since finishing second on Rally Sweden back in February and is 11th in the World championship standings.

Breen is still behind Kris Meeke who was axed by the team following his massive accident on Rally Portugal in May.

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