The quartet are sure to enjoy huge support on what is one of the most popular rounds on the WRC calendar.
With wins in Portugal and Finland, Meeke and Nagle will be eager to make it a hat-trick ahead of next season’s WRC when the works Citroen team return to the series. Of his nine outings in the rally, Meeke’s best performance was runner-up last year. “With just a part-programme this year, I’m not fighting for anything in the championship, so I just want to go out there and enjoy myself this weekend. It will be the last competitive outing for the DS3 and we have proven already this year that it is still a very capable car.
“Obviously, the first car has an enormous advantage. Once the racing lines become covered with a layer of greasy, slippery mud, it doesn’t budge. Bearing in mind that we are ninth on the road, it’s likely to be very difficult for us.”
Elsewhere, Killarney’s Rob Duggan will drive a Vauxhall Adam in the R2 category along side team mate Chris Ingram. The rally begins with the Myherin (30km) stage with the loop also featuring Sweet Lamb, Hafren and Dyfnant – all of which are repeated this afternoon with the service park at Deeside.
On the home front, the Bantry-based Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally goes ahead on Sunday with Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Skoda Fabia R5) topping a somewhat unfamiliar looking entry list — eight of last year’s top 40.
It also features the Fiesta R5 of Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey, who like McGonigle has little experience of the West Cork terrain. The in-form Jonny Pringle (Ford Escort) has competed twice in recent years and is favourite for victory. Last week he overcame paddle shift and clutch problems to win a similar event in Baltinglass.
Meanwhile, Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Mitsubishi) spearheads the local challenge. The rally is the final and deciding round of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship with the talented young Derry driver Callum Devine heading the standings. The new Irish Tarmac R2 champion is hoping to switch from his Opel Adam to a Skoda Fabia S2000. Since its inception in 1998 Wesley Patterson (2013) is the only Northern Ireland driver to have won the series. Killarney’s Charlie Hickey is Devine’s only title rival.
The top 10 also includes Pauric Duffy (Fiesta R5), George Condell (Toyota Starlet), Killarney’s Ed Murphy (Escort) and the Honda Civic pair of Bandon’s Vincent McSweeney and Waterford’s Simon Reid. It would not be a surprise to see McSweeney secure a top four finish. Locals Jason McSweeney (Mitsubishi) and Jer O’Donovan (Subaru) are also competing. The first of the day’s six stages begins at 10.15am.
Monaghan’s Josh Moffett is the latest nominee for this year’s Billy Coleman Young Driver of the Year Award. The 24 year old from Clontibret was nominated for performances in July and August.
Having completed his European Le Mans Series in Estoril last Sunday, Cork driver Matt Griffin opens his account in the Asian Le Mans Series (ALMS) in China on Sunday. He joins his Clearwater Racing teammates Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa for the four-hour race at the Zhuhai International Circuit.
The Singapore-based outfit are Asia’s top GT team and are the current ALMS champions. There is free practice today, qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday.