Motorsport: Welsh raider Evans renews battle with McGarrity
There is a new order at the head of Dunlop Irish National Championship rallying, with Mel Evans set to resume his battle with Derek McGarrity at the second round of the series in the McWilliam Hotel Mayo Rally on Sunday.
Welshman Evans won in Nenagh a fortnight ago with former Tarmac Series champion McGarrity a battling second as he embarks on his maiden national series assault.
McGarrity continues to dovetail campaigns in the Dunlop series and the Northern Ireland Rally Championship and will compete in Bishopscourt on Saturday with his Subaru Impreza S12B before heading to Claremorris for Sunday's event.
For Evans, the task of challenging for the title is daunting but given his pace in round one he is determined to take it all the way against the local drivers.
"I knew the pace of the Dunlop series having competed in the final round in Skibbereen last year, but I was shocked to have won in Nenagh," he said. "I still felt that I had a bit in reserve, but it was nice to win that way. I hadn't sat in the car since Skibbereen.
"I will try and get the budget to do the rest of the championship. The costs have gone up since 2009 and I have to travel from Wales to all the events, which is an extra burden.
"It will be tough in Mayo. I have never competed there before so it will depend on the type of stages. I did the Galway Summer Rally a few years ago and finished second. Derek (McGarrity), Niall (Maguire) and Kevin (Barrett) will all be out for a bit of revenge."
With reigning champion Patrick Elliott absent for the foreseeable future, last year's runner-up and former title-winner Maguire will be eager for a quick return to form in Mayo after finishing fourth in Tipperary.
The title contenders won't have it all their own way, with former champion Aaron MacHale the No 1 seed.
All eyes will be on Billy Coleman award-winner Craig Breen, who starts sixth in the Super 2000 Ford Fiesta with which he finished second overall to Gareth MacHale in the Galway International Rally last month.
The 20-year-old, on a scholarship work placement with WRC squad M-Sport, could well spring a surprise and both he and his car represent the future of the sport here.
Reigning Patterson's RallyNews Group N champion, Kevin Kelleher, who claimed the final podium place in Nenagh, will also be hoping to match the WRC machines once again.