Keith Cronin returns to Scarborough for the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on September 28/29 bidding to become only the fourth driver ever to win the British Rally Championship three times.
The 26-year-old from Bantry, County Cork in Ireland needs only a reasonably placed finish on the sixth and final round to clinch the title he previously won in 2009 and 2010 and so join Jimmy McRae (five times champion), Roger Clark (four) and Mark Higgins (three) as the most successful men in the 54-year history of the competition.
Cronin sealed both his other British crowns on the Trackrod Motor Club’s premier event, winning the rally in 2009 before gaining sufficient points for a ‘safe’ third place the following year to retain the title.
Again Cronin, nowadays equipped with a Citroen DS3 R3, has no need to win in Yorkshire, having gained the upper hand in the championship chase with victories on each of the last three rounds – the Pirelli, Jim Clark and Todds Leap Ulster International rallies.
The Irish star is tied on 78 at the top of the points table with Elfyn Evans, who won the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire 12 months ago, with a second Welshman Tom Cave four points behind in third place, but the championship’s rules state each driver can drop his worst score of the series.
This leaves Cronin and co-driver Marshall Clarke, for Enniskillen, needing to finish only eighth or higher, even if either of his two main challengers were to win over the six high speed North York Moors stages.
In addition Fiesta R2 pilot Evans is almost certain to miss the Yorkshire encounter due to concentrating on defending his lead in World Rally Championship Academy the following week in France, leaving Aberdovey driver Cave and Oswestry navigator Craig Parry, in a similar specification Citroen, as the only real threat.
Well over 100 cars have already entered the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire and associated events: the BRC Challenge, The Pre-78 & Historic Cup, the Clubman’s Trophy Rally and even a rally for Army Land Rovers, with the door not finally closing to prospective competitors until the end of this week.
Cronin’s 1598cc DS3 is seeded number one and will lead the entourage away off the start ramp on West Pier, Scarborough at 6pm on Friday, with a potentially spectacular 15-mile plus night stage in nearby Dalby Forest getting the action underway.
Spectators can witness banks of spotlights roaring twice through the famous ‘Woodyard’ section with access gained via Whitby Gate and Dalby Forest Drive, off of the A170 at Thornton-le-Dale.
Famous rally cars from the sixties, seventies and early eighties (Trackrod Historic Cup competitors) lead the entourage into the forests with the first car due to start the Dalby stage at approximately 7.30pm.
The modern day ‘International’ crews follow shortly afterwards.
The rally continues throughout Saturday with more accessible action in Dalby (Housedale and the Woodyard - both approached the same way) and also Cropton Forest (via Wrelton on the A170).
Competitors from all sections of the event are due back over the finish ramp, back on West Pier, at various times during the afternoon: Historic from 12.55pm, International (the British Championship competitors) from 4.55pm and finally the Clubmen from 5.52pm.
Additional entertainment is laid on by a variety of the area’s best musical talents on a stage adjacent to the start/finish ramp.
This begins at 4.15pm on Friday and 11.45am, then 4pm on Saturday.
A parade of cars, rally show and autograph session commences at 5pm Friday with more details of locations and timings available in the event programme, which will be distributed at spectator entry points or can be bought in advance at West Pier from Friday afternoon.