Four-time British Rally Champion, Keith Cronin, is to return to the series in 2022 in a bid to equal the five-title tally of record holder, Jimmy McRae. Cronin will campaign a Volkswagen Polo R5 backed by Hankook Tire, and will be guided by Mikie Galvin in the co-driver’s seat. The BRC gets underway on Saturday evening with the tarmac surface Rally Tendring & Clacton in Essex, and six further rounds follow between then and October.
“We did five events with Hankook last year as part of a development programme,” explains Cronin. “We’re doing the full championship this time, and I’m confident the work we did in 2021 will have paid off. I’m looking forward to getting out there with the Polo, the top two in last year’s BRC drove them, they’re a strong, well-engineered car, and seem to be especially suited to rallying in this part of the world.”
Cronin had his debut in the Volkswagen on the recent Birr Rally, and he and Galvin were running in second place before a broken propshaft forced the Killarney & District Motor Club crew to retire. “We entered Birr as a test session really, it was our first day out in the car and our first dry tarmac rally since 2018,” said Cronin following the event. “Obviously it would have been nicer to finish, but it’s better that the prop went there rather than in Essex next weekend. Josh Moffett had won three rallies already this year, but we matched him on one stage and had an outright fastest time on another, so that’s a cause for optimism”.
Rally Tendring and Clacton is one of a number of closed-road tarmac rallies which have been inaugurated in Great Britain following the introduction of new legislation, and the inclusion of the Essex event in the British Rally Championship marks a return of the series to the populous south east for the first time in many years. Two runs over a short spectator stage on Clacton’s promenade will open the rally on Saturday evening, with three loops of four stages following on Sunday. “The stages are shorter than what we’d be used to in Ireland”, noted Cronin. “There are fourteen in total, but the longest of them is 10 kilometres, and the total distance is only 85 kilometres, so everyone will have to be on it from the outset, there will be no room for cautious starts”.
There will be livestreams throughout the weekend on the British Rally Championship’s Facebook page.
Following the opening round, the BRC moves to Scotland next month for the Jim Clark Rally, also a closed-road tarmac event. The series then switches onto gravel, for the Nicky Grist Rally in Wales and the Grampian Rally in Scotland during July and August. September sees a return to tarmac for the Rali Bae Ceredigion in Wales, also a new addition to the championship. Later the same month, the BRC moves north to the gravel of Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, with the Cambrian Rally in Wales marking the finale in October, also on gravel.
Cronin and Galvin will once again enjoy the support of Hankook Tire Global throughout the season, and Cronin paid tribute to it for his return to competitive action: “Hankook gave us our chance to get back on the stages last year, and I am very pleased to have them on board for 2022”. Hankook is the seventh largest tyre company in the world and an original equipment supplier to manufacturers such as BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. It is the exclusive tyre supplier to the FIA Formula E World Championship, the 24H Series powered by Hankook, W Series, and the Super Taikyu Endurance Grand Touring Series in Asia.
M O’Brien Group of Companies also returns with to the BRC with Cronin and Galvin. It is a multi discipline contractor operating throughout Great Britain, offering services such as plant hire, demolition, drainage installation and earthworks. “Michael O’Brien has backed my motorsport career for over ten years now, and he and his sons, Dan and Conor, are themselves also regular competitors, in rallying, endurance and GT racing. Michael is tackling the National BRC this year in his Fiesta WRC”, said Cronin.
Cremin Coach & Mini Bus Hire also remains with the crew for 2022. “Michael Cremin had been one of my supporters since very early on, both as a sponsor and mentor, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have so far without his help”, Cronin stated. Based in Kealkill, Cremin Coach & Mini Bus Hire provides coach tours throughout West Cork and Ireland, and celebrates it’s thirtieth anniversary this year. It offers transport options for six to 56 people, and their services include corporate bookings for companies, clubs and other groups.
Cronin also announced two additional partners for 2022: “I am pleased to welcome the support of two new sponsors this year. Keohane Seafoods is a family-owned West Cork firm, based near Bantry, providing fresh and frozen produce to Centra, Super-Valu and the other major supermarket chains in Ireland, as well as to Lidl in the UK, Europe and the US. It also operates its own Seafood Shop at Kinsale Road, Cork”.
“Inver Community also joins us for the first time in 2022. Inver Energy has been providing quality assured fuel for over 35 years, and now has over sixty forecourts throughout Ireland, including Cronin’s Ballylickey. It also has a presence in the UK and Canada”.
The Hankook Tire Volkswagen Polo R5 is prepared and run by Tom Gahan Motorsport.
2022 British Rally Championship Calendar
April 23-24 – Rally Tendring & Clacton – Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, England
May 27-28 – Jim Clark Rally – Duns, Scottish Borders, Scotland
July 9 – Nicky Grist Rally – Builith Wells, Powys, Wales
August 13 – Grampian Rally – Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
September 3-4 – Rali Bae Ceredigion – Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales
September 23-24 – Trackrod Rally Yorkshire – Filey, Yorkshire, England
October 29 – Cambrian Rally – Llandudno, Conwy, Wales
2022 Corbeau Seat Rally Tendring & Clacton – Timetable (First Car Due)
Saturday, 23rd April, 2022
Stage 1 Weston Homes 1 18:00 (Reverse Seeding)
Stage 2 Weston Homes 2 18:15 (Reverse Seeding)
Parc Fermé 18:23
Sunday, 24th April, 2022
Service Marine Parade West, Clacton 07:56 – In
Stage 3 Cadman Construction 1 09:00
Stage 4 Alcon Brakes 1 09:27
Stage 5 Weston Business Centres 1 09:50
Stage 6 MGJ Engineeering 1 10:20
Service Marine Parade West, Clacton 11:06 – In
11:51 – Out
Stage 7 Cadman Construction 1 12:30
Stage 8 Alcon Brakes 1 12:57
Stage 9 Weston Business Centres 1 13:20
Stage 10 MGJ Engineeering 1 13:50
Service Marine Parade West, Clacton 14:36 – In
15:06 – Out
Stage 11 Cadman Construction 1 15:45
Stage 12 Alcon Brakes 1 16:12
Stage 13 Weston Business Centres 1 16:35
Stage 14 MGJ Engineeering 1 17:05
Finish Tendring Education Centre 17:22
2022 Corbeau Seat Rally Tendring & Clacton – Top Ten Seeds
- Thomas Preston/Carl Williamson, Ford Fiesta R5
- Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan, Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
- Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke, Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
- Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin, Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
- Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman, Skoda Fabia R5
- Frank Bird/TBA, Ford Fiesta Rally 2
- Garry Pearson/Dale Furniss, Ford Fiesta Rally 2
- Hugh Hunter/TBA, Ford Fiesta R5
- James Williams/Dai Roberts, Hyundai i20 R5
- Elliot Payne/Tom Woodburn, Ford Fiesta Rally 2