Irish World Rally hopes increase

THE Irish bid to host a round of the World Rally Championship will be further scrutinised today at the World Rally Commission meeting at FIA headquarters in Paris.

It appears that the success of Rally Ireland in March has paved the way for inclusion in the WRC calendar insofar as it satisfied many, if not all the criteria for a successful bid.

The structure of the 2007/08 WRC series is also set to be discussed.

Ideas being mooted are an enlarged series with some ten fixed rounds and six alternate events on a guaranteed three-year cycle.

The WRC organisers could also introduce a Premiership/First Division structure with the former having WRC events and the latter with either Junior WRC and/or production category complete with promotion/relegation.

Either way, the Irish bid is almost certain to find favour and provide a huge boost to the promotion of Ireland as a sporting and tourist destination.

The final decision will be announced in July.

Meanwhile the decision by organisers of the British Rally Championship to ban World Rally Cars (WRCs) from the 2006 British Rally Championship was greeted with cynicism at the time, with some suggesting that it would cause a further decline of the series.

But tomorrow, with title sponsor Tesco 99 Octane on board, its rebirth is little short of spectacular. Now the domain of Group N and Super 1600 cars, the series opener, the Pirelli Rally in Carlisle, has attracted a cracking entry, including several past champions. In what is possibly the most open contest in years, top Irish duo, Rory Galligan/Greg Shinnors, who form part of Mitsubishi’s three-pronged attack on the dual surface series, have a realistic chance of landing the BRC title. Galligan, the inaugural winner of the Billy Coleman Award, tested his brand new Lancer Evolution IX last week.

British duo Ryan Champion and David Higgins complete the Mitsubishi team.

Reigning champion and top seed, Mark Higgins pilots a Subaru and has experienced Letterkenny co-driver Rory Kennedy guiding him through the Kielder complex.

Elsewhere, Shaun Gallagher, Philip Morrow and Connor McCloskey are among the Irish drivers contesting the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge category.

Equally fascinating is the Super 1600 category where Czech Roman Kresta and Barry Clark (Ford Fiestas), Guy Wilks and James Wozencroft (Suzukis) and Cork ace Brian O’Mahony are the main protagonists. Defending S1600 champion O’Mahony debuts his new Ford Puma and will hope its lower centre of gravity will bring better fortune than his Irish Tarmac series outings.

There are eight stages tomorrow, along with two spectator stages close to Carlisle. Sunday’s second leg features six stages.

Meanwhile, National Forest Rally Championship leader John McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) can bring stability to the series that has seen three different drivers occupy the lead role. Over eight stages across east Cork and west Waterford, McCarthy will have Stephen Moore (Ford Focus) snapping at his heels trying to reduce the three-point deficit.

Tipperary driver Trevor Harding, with Adrian Deasy calling the pace notes, has hired a McKinstry S8 Subaru WRC and will contend. James Murphy (Escort WRC), who missed the last round, is also entered.

Top Group N driver Pete Willoughby from Lismore is likely to pose a threat, along with Brian Lawlor in a Mitsubishi. First car away is at 9am, servicing at Cappagh follows stages 3 and 6 and the finish is scheduled for the Midleton Park Hotel at 5.30pm.

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