Mark Higgins is favourite to claim a third victory on the TOTAL Manx International Rally, which gets
underway from the TT Grandstand tonight, despite a strong Irish challenge.
The Wales-domiciled Manxman returns to his home stages as leader of the Kwik-Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship, having won 6 of the last 7 events in the calendar stretching back to September and the Ford Focus WRC driver will have regular co-driver Bryan Thomas on the notes.
Most of the main opposition on the longest round of the championship comes from the other side of Ireland.
Banbridge’s Kenny McKinstry and Bangor’s Noel Orr only tackle selected events in their Subaru Impreza WRC, but very rarely miss the opportunity to take on the Isle of Man's unique terrain, very fast and yet very bumpy too.
There are several other crews who could push for victory on the event, including Derek McGarrity from Glengormley with the very latest-spec Impreza WRC.
His rival from the Pirelli Irish Tamac title, Maghera’s Eugene Donnelly is currently three points clear of McGarrity in this year's title chase in his Toyota Corolla WRC.
Austin MacHale, who narrowly lost out to Mark Higgins’ brother David in last year's British Championship, is fighting for both British and Irish points this weekend in his 2003 Focus, lying second and fourth in the respective standings.