Cronin's full focus on title
When Keith Cronin created history by winning the British rally championship at his first attempt -- and being the first Irishman to win the title in 35 years -- it was predicted his win would result in an exodus of Irish drivers across the water to contest the British championship this year. The prediction proved right with Irish drivers taking five of the top 10 spots in the entry list. Cronin is in the happy position that his funded drive will allow him fully concentrate on retaining his crown.
As reigning champion Cronin tops the list, but he faces a tough season-long battle with a former champion -- the wily veteran Gwyndaf Evans in the works-supported Mitsubishi EvoX, with Irish youngsters Jonathan Greer, Craig Breen, Ulster duo Alistair Fisher and Darren Gass, and Scottish pair David Bogie and Euan Thorburn waiting in the wings to pounce should either of the top pair hit trouble.
Robert Barrable plans to contest both the Irish and British Citroen Cup series and already leads the Irish series after his Galway win. The young Swords star heads the Citroen field in the Bulldog, which includes fellow Irish drivers Mark Donnelly and Joe McGonigle. While aiming to finish as high up the leaderboard as possible, Barrable will have to take care not to damage his car as he will be driving in the Circuit of Ireland one week later.
Jonny Cunningham will be aiming to consolidate his lead in the Fiesta Sport Challenge while Owen Murphy will be co-driven by James O'Brien, who normally sits with Andrew Nesbitt as they vie for position in both the British series and Evo UK Challenge.
p Clerk of the course Sean Cahill secured 100 entries, including 13 juniors, for the popular Roosky-based Midland MC Moto Stages rally on Sunday. Last year's winner Maurice Moffett -- with Martin McGarrity co-driving this time -- returns to defend his title in the Starlet he drove to victory last year.
He will be hard-pressed with James Foley (EvoX), Adrian Quinn (EvoIX), Subaru duo Sean Flanagan and Paul McEnroe, Declan Boyle (Escort Mk2) and Tommy Doyle (Renault Clio R3) featuring on the entry list. Other leading club drivers entered include Timmy England, Arthur Kierans, Stephen Cullen, Mark Nangle, Tommy McGovern, Gordon Rogers and Enda McLoughlin.
p Lack of entries forced Birr & DAC to cancel the championship forestry rally listed for Easter Sunday. The club originally had a date listed for October but brought it forward to the Easter date after Limerick MC opted not to take up their Easter date for the third round in the Petro Systems forestry championship.
p The Birr club has postponed the autocross championship double- header listed for this weekend by one week as a mark of respect to founder member Billy Cavanagh who died last Saturday. He won his first autocross championship title in a Rover V8 Special he designed and built himself in 1972, and went on to claim a further five titles to become the only six-time national autocross champion.
p The Irish Evo Challenge winner will get a supported drive in the FxPro Cyprus rally -- the final IRC round -- in November. The Irish champion will join the winners of the Swedish and UK series in a shootout for the European Evo Challenge crown.
The Irish series kicks off on the Circuit of Ireland at Easter and the seven-round series includes Carlow (May 9), Mourne (June 5), ALMC (July 18), Ulster (August 20-21) and the two-day Wexford Dick Bailey stages event on September 11-12.
p Professional co-driver Killian Duffy has launched a new venture providing a safety/pacenote service for rallies throughout the country, starting with the Midland Moto stages rally on Sunday. "I am a competitor providing a service for competitors. My notes will be as simple but as informative as possible, making both the co-drivers' and drivers' jobs as easy as possible," said the Mayo star who can be contacted on 087 6355088 for further details.
p The new racing season gets under way with the 500MRCI meeting at Kirkistown on Saturday. The Fiat Punto/Abarth class is the only southern class heading north and will join the regular northern classes. The meeting will see the introduction of a new GT class which will be incorporated with Libre saloons.
p Defending champion Colin Turking-ton is not named among the 23-car entry list for this year's BTCC championship. The Portadown driver is devastated he will not be on the grid for the opening round at Thruxton on Easter Sunday.
He hit problems securing adequate funding to retain his seat with West Surrey Racing -- the team he won the title with last year. Although he has signed Andy Neate and Rob Collard, WSR team boss Dick Bennetts has made no secret of his desire to get a third BMW for Turkington this year.