Ford Europe to withdraw from World Rally Championship

Rally Italia Sardegna, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, continues today against the backdrop of the withdrawals of two manufacturers and a change in driver line-up.

Ford of Europe announced it will not be continuing its involvement in the WRC and will quit at the end of the season.

“We determined that it was better for the company and the Ford brand to reduce our commitment to the WRC and deploy our resources in other areas,” said Roelant de Waard, Ford Europe’s vice president, marketing, sales and service.

Ford’s long-term rallying partner, the Cumbria-based M-Sport outfit plans to continue competing in the WRC with the Fiesta. Both sides are in discussions to provide continued vehicle and engineering support. M-Sport has been involved with Ford for 16 seasons.

Mini will also terminate its works involvement at the end of this season.

Meanwhile, Jari Matti Latvala, currently driving with Ford, is joining Volkswagen. The 27-year-old Finn will team up with Sebastien Ogier in VW’s line-up for the debut of the Polo R WRC in the 2013 World Rally Championship.

The Escorts of Camillus Bradley, David Armstrong and Mervyn Wedlock along with Brendan Cumiskey (Mitsubishi) are the principal entries for tomorrow’s Formula Karting Gullion Rally in Newry.

The National Navigation Trial Championship continues tomorrow night with the Birr Navigation Trial based at Nenagh Ormond Rugby Club and begins at 9.30pm.

On Sunday, the Cavan Autocross at Latton Quarry starts at 1am; the Irish Rallycross Championship continues in Mondello Park (10.15am) and the TDC Autotest at the same venue has an 11am start and the Kerry Autosolo at Tralee Racecourse begins at noon.

Defending champion, Midleton’s Darragh O’Riordan (Subaru WRC) is the top seed for next week’s Bantry-based Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally. The remainder of the top 10 is: 2. Brian O’Mahony (Subaru WRC); 3. Denis Cronin (Subaru WRC); 4. Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC); 5. Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC); 6. Eoin Doyle (Ford Focus WRC); 7. Alan Ring Mitsubishi EvoIX); 8. Damien McCarthy (Honda Civic); 9. John Hendy (Toyota Corolla); 10. Fergus O’Meara (Ford Escort).

The organisers of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship are on the lookout for a new manager after Don Wilmont confirmed he is stepping down.

“Some (reasons) are personal but the principal one is that the championship is currently considering a three-year business plan and I feel that it is now time for me to step aside and make way for someone younger who can make the increased commitment required to deliver the plan,” he said.

Ashbourne’s, Peter Dempsey (26) has signed for Belardi Auto Racing for 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season. A three-time winner of the Walter Hayes Trophy, Dempsey has been battling to find a permanent seat in the third step of the Mazda Road to Indy for three seasons and has now found one in Belardi Auto Racing.

The British Touring Car Championship showdown at Brands Hatch on Sunday involves Gordon Shedden, Jason Plato, Matt Neal (still nursing a broken hand) and Andrew Jordan.

Shedden (Honda) is hoping to become the first Scottish winner of the series since John Cleland in 1995. He has a 15-point advantage over his nearest challenger Plato, however, with 67 points still up for grabs — 20 for a win plus assorted bonuses — Plato is the man in form.

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