Wil­son con­firms Cum­brian out­fit is in talks with three-time Bri­tish cham­pion

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Jack Benyon

Three-time Bri­tish Rally cham­pion Keith Cronin is close to a deal to com­pete with M-sport in the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship, Motorsport News un­der­stands.

Cronin, who won the Ir­ish Tar­mac Rally Cham­pi­onship last year in a Citroen DS 3 R5, has traded the ti­tlewin­ning car in for a Fi­esta R5.

He started the BRC last year in Mid Wales but hadn’t com­peted on gravel for two years. Af­ter crash­ing out of the Cir­cuit of Ire­land, he switched his fo­cus to the ITRC.

The Cork driver is hop­ing to com­pete in this week­end’s Wil­lie Lough­man For­est Rally, the open­ing round of the Ir­ish For­est Rally Cham­pi­onship in his new Fi­esta R5. The trade deal is un­re­lated to the M-sport talks.

Cronin told MN: “I’ve noth­ing def­i­nite sorted yet. We are talk­ing, we’re hop­ing it will go ahead, but we’re not quite there yet. I must go over again to M-sport for an­other meet­ing.

“I’m go­ing to try to do the rally in the Ir­ish cham­pi­onship this week­end. I haven’t done any gravel for a long time.”

M-sport boss Mal­colm Wil­son con­firmed that the pair were in talks for a deal this year.

“We’re in dis­cus­sions with him, but there’s def­i­nitely noth­ing signed or sealed yet,” said Wil­son. “We’re very keen to sup­port the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship again this year – we want a strong pres­ence there. Ob­vi­ously we won the ti­tle with El­fyn [Evans] last year and we want to come back and chal­lenge again this time around.

“Keith’s a quick guy and he’s won the Bri­tish ti­tle a cou­ple of times be­fore, so he’s no stranger to the UK forests.”

Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship man­ager, Iain Camp­bell, is ea­ger to see M-sport and Cronin in the se­ries next year.

“To have M-sport com­pet­ing in the BRC this year would be a great en­dorse­ment of where they feel the se­ries is headed,” he said.

“M-sport have a lot of prod­uct out on the events but to have them en­ter a team them­selves is very ex­cit­ing. The ru­mour is that Keith Cronin will be the driver. Keith has some se­ri­ous pace about him that we didn’t re­ally get to see on many BRC events last year, but his pace on the Ul­ster Rally was re­ally quick.

“I am strug­gling to think of an out-and­out favourite for the 2017 ti­tle, and this ru­moured an­nounce­ment does not make pick­ing a win­ner any eas­ier.”

MN un­der­stands that M-sport is close to a deal with an­other driver in the BRC for 2017 and could ex­pand to run­ning a two-car team.

It had been ru­moured Cronin would drive a Dmack-backed car, but as re­ported in MN the DMACK team, which backed Evans’ ti­tle last term, won’t re­turn to the se­ries this year. The pro­posed two-car M-sport team would likely run on DMACKS, how­ever. Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by David Evans

Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey, Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic, mcklein-im­age­

Cronin won Ir­ish Tar­mac in ’16 Wil­son: eye­ing deal with Cronin Cork driver in talks with M-sport

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