Citroen has a fine record of 11 consecutive wins in Germany and after six gravel events the return to sealed surface is no big deal for Meeke.
“I haven’t competed in an all-tarmac rally for three years. But it all comes back to you quickly, it’s like riding a bike! I know that the DS3 WRC is competitive and that the team knows the rally perfectly,” he said.
Although Waterford’s Craig Breen (Ford Fiesta WRC) was seeded 14, he has been ruled out by the stewards further to a report by the FIA medical delegate and the rally chief medical officer, who advised against allowing him compete due to potential risks of aggravation to the back injury he sustained last time out in Finland.
Monaghan’s Sam Moffett makes his WR debut and it will be intriguing to see how he performs against the backdrop of his new surroundings. Derry’s Marty McCormack will campaign a Ford Fiesta R5, Alastair Fisher (Citroen DS3) competes in WRC3 and Wexford’s Eamonn Boland (Subaru R4) makes yet another WR appearance.
On the home front, the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship swings back into action after a break of three months with the DJD Transport Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally in the Ballyhoura forest complex in North Cork on Sunday. Series leader, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, will debut his new Mitsubishi as he bids to see off the challenge of former champion Owen Murphy, in a similar car. The Ovens driver has won the last two rounds — his only championship outings so far — and although he won this event two years ago, he has finished second on many other occasions and a win this time would bolster his title bid.
In what is a very strong line-up that pair are unlikely to have it all their own way, especially with first round winner Desi Henry and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan intent on making up for a hasty retirement last time out when they hit a chicane bale that burst the radiator of their Mitsubishi.
Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi), another former champion, is viewed as a potential winner of the eight-stage rally where the top 10 also includes Martin Cairns (Subaru WRC), Brendan Cumiskey (Mitsubishi), John Reid (Toyota Corolla WRC), Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC), Peter McCullagh (Mitsubishi) and Marty McKenna (Subaru WRC). Late entry Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi) adds more spice.
Also in the hunt are Ballyvourney’s Gerard Lucey and Douglas man Mark Murphy, both in Mitsubishis, along with the top two-wheel drive exponents such as Frank Kelly (Ford Escort). In the Junior category, Dunmanway’s Conor McCarthy (Honda Civic) is seeking to maintain his unbeaten run.
The first stage begins at 9.15am, servicing after stages two, four and six is at the Charleville Showgrounds and the rally finishes at the Corbett Court Restaurant at 5pm.
Meanwhile, the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship makes its annual trip north for round seven of the series at Knockhill in Scotland. Portadown’s Colin Turkington, in his eBay Motors BMW 125i, has a 23-point lead over Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic Tourer), who will be expected to impress in front of his home crowd and give Turkington a tough time. Double winner at the last round in Snetterton, Jason Plato (MG) should also be very much in the mix.
Earlier this week, Dubliner Aron Smith (CC Volkswagen) with two wins to his credit and who lies ninth overall, launched his new Aron Smith Racing signature watch range in conjunction with Scottish sports watchmakers, Horizon Watches.
Also on Sunday, Donegal’s Damien Faulkner returns to the Virginia International Raceway in the United States to compete in the Oak Tree Grand Prix, his ninth race in the new North American super series — the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. Faulkner will race in his GB Autosport-run Porsche and is hoping to repeat last year’s success at the venue and will be partnered by Michael Lewis in the Tully’s Coffee Porsche 911 GT America.