NORWAY’s Petter Solberg and Irish co-driver, Chris Patterson begin today’s second stage of the Neste Oil Rally Finland in first position after setting the fastest time on last evening’s opening stage.
On board a Citroen C4, Solberg finished the 4.19 kilometre Laajavuori sprint stage a second faster than Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus WRC). World champion, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) and Jari-Matti Latvala share third with Sebastien Ogier rounding off the top five. Four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen, driving for the Stobart M-Sport Ford team is competing as the event celebrates its 60th anniversary, finished in 13th.
Craig Breen, in his Kick Energy Ford Fiesta S2000 that has been re-fettled since his accident in Donegal, was seeded at 67 and was classified 34th at the stage finish.
Meanwhile, Motorsport Ireland has announced that Breen, the Irish Young Rally Driver of the Year and Billy Coleman Award winner will represent Ireland in the Northern European section of the FIA Pirelli Star Driver Shootout in Sweden on August 14th.
BMW has confirmed that the Mini will compete in selected rounds of the World Rally Championship next season ahead of a full programme in 2012.
The Mini Countryman WRC has been developed by the Banbury-based Prodrive organisation run by David Richards, who previously ran the Subaru outfit in the WRC.
Since its inception in 1980, the Lurgan Park Rally has become one of the most popular events in the country.
It has also provided Kenny McKinstry with some terrific victories, 11 in all over the period where the popular Banbridge car preparation expert has been dubbed, “King of the Park”. Tomorrow, he will be trying to add to his tally. However, he faces formidable opposition including three drivers on board cars prepared at McKinstry Motorsport. The event is also boosted by a late entry from former five times Irish Tarmac champion, Eugene Donnelly and by the presence of four times Circuit of Ireland winner, Derek McGarrity.
Donnelly will be reunited with his all conquering Toyota Corolla WRC, the car that provided the Derry ace with three of his five titles and half of his 18 victories in rounds of the Irish Tarmac series, he will run directly behind top seed, McKinstry. Meanwhile, McGarrity will pilot the S12B Subaru he campaigns in the Dunlop series.
McKinstry will also be busy in the paddock as he oversees cars for Darren Gass, Garry Jennings and Kevin Barrett. Along with the Subaru WRCs of Gary White and John McGaffin, the top 10 also features the Metro 6R4s of Denis Biggerstaff and Brian O’Mahony along with Mark Doyle in a Toyota Celica. Another late entry is Cashel’s, Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi). Several Group B cars including an Audi Quattro, a Peugeot 205T16, a Ford RS200 will also feature. The first of the eight stages is scheduled to start at 10.30am.
Irish racer, Eoin Murray bids to improve on his second place in the Seat Leon Eurocup in this weekend’s double-header at Bruno in the Czech Republic. The Dubliner is just five points behind French driver, Michael Rossi. Murray is enjoying a strong run with three podium finishes in his last three events.
Motorsport Ireland has announced that this year’s Phoenix Park Road Races (August 14/15) have been cancelled due to a lack of funding.
Meanwhile, the affiliated clubs within Motorsport Ireland are set to receive documentation within the next week outlining the “way forward” for the sport.
The blueprint was promised after the unrest at the end of last season that threatened the future of rallying. The plan will incorporate all categories of the sport.
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