Belfast Telegraph

Fired-up Keith Cronin still impresses despite his early exit

By Sammy Hamill

For a driver who lasted less than nine stages before crashing out, Keith Cronin did much to enhance his growing reputation on the Barum Rally.

So much so the 24-year-old British champion from Cork is likely to be called into the MEM Proton team for a second Intercontinental Challenge appearance before the end of the season.

Cronin and his Ulster co-driver Barry McNulty flew out to the Czech Republic to make his debut with the team directly after finishing second on the Rally NI. But after limited testing and a difficult start in pouring rain, Cronin was closing in on a top 10 place when he went off the road.

But team boss Chris Mellors was still impressed and says he actively considering putting him in a Proton again.

“We’re always looking for young talent and it’s been great to work with Keith,” said Mellors.

“It was nice to give him an opportunity and I don’t blame him for going off. It was great that somebody was giving the ball a kick and pushing it to the limit. For sure he could be in the car again.”

It won’t be the next round, the Sanremo Rally, which clashes with the Yorkshire International where Cronin will be bidding to retain his British title. But the Rally of Scotland in October is a strong possibility.

Cronin had been a surprise recruit to the Proton team for the Barum event where he linked up with fellow Irish driver Niall McShea and although both struggled initially with the set-up in the streaming wet conditions, Cronin came alive during the second leg, climbing from 32nd place to 12th.

He set times in the top six in a car he had never driven before and on a rally — indeed a country — he had never experienced before. Eventually Cronin was caught out by loose gravel on a corner, the car ending up off the road an in a river bed.

McShea was in 18th place when he retired with a mechanical problem on stage nine.

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