Leinster attract large entry for Downpatrick debut
Leinster Motor Club have attracted a three-figure entry for their highly anticipated return to Bishopscourt this weekend.
The former World War Two airfield at Downpatrick returns to four-wheel racing action on Saturday having last played host to the Leinster Club in 1967 and was last used for car racing by the Ulster Automobile Club in 1973.
Now, the progressive LMC have resurrected Bishopscourt as a racing venue, giving competitors a third option for motor racing to go with Mondello Park and Kirkistown.
Interestingly, Sunday's action at the venue will be a first for car racing in Northern Ireland.
The Leinster club have had to jump through a number of administrative hoops to make this weekend's event happen, not least of which was the fact that the venue is in Co Down.
As a result, while Leinster will run this weekend's programme of races, the British Automobile Racing Club will handle the permit and have a token presence at the event.
Leinster officials have also partnered informally with Ballynahinch and District Motor Club to assist in gaining support for a date from the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs who handle the motor racing calendar in the province.
Finally, local opposition to the venue means Bishopscourt is restricted by Down District Council to just 16 days of use a year. Current venue owner Jim O'Brien bought the abandoned RAF base in 2001 and renovated it for a return to regular competitive use.
Since then it has been used on and off for motorcycle and kart racing but Mr O'Brien has offered two days from his allocation for this weekend's landmark meeting.
This weekend's fare includes all the regular racing classes north and south of the Border with just over 100 confirmed entries at the time of writing.
Formula Vee has produced some great racing and some amazing lap times this season and multiple Vee champion Ray Moore will call on all his experience to come to terms with the unfamiliar layout as quickly as possible on Saturday.
The resurgent Formula Sheane series is also due to appear and will include Formula Vee graduate Jennifer Mullen in its ranks for the first time.
As ever, Irish Touring Cars bring the biggest grid with them while Fiat Punto Abarths, Global Lights, Legends, Formula Ford 1600, Formula Libre and Northern Ireland Sevens will offer variety and no little entertainment throughout the weekend.
Meanwhile, Dunlop National Rally Championship leader Thomas Fitzmaurice (Subaru WRC) tops the entries for Sunday's fourth round of the series in Carlow.
The Kerryman has taken to WRC machinery with impressive ease this year and is chasing his third win in the current campaign at the Tullow-based Mount Wolseley Hotel Carlow Rally, having stunned the regular front-runners with his pace this season.
Mr Fitzmaurice will be looking forward to renewing his rivalry with Corkman Brian O'Mahony, the latter having only missed out on a tie-break count in the last round in Kerry.
Triple Dunlop champion Niall Maguire, who won the Mayo Rally and was also in contention in Kerry until he got a puncture, has shown a good turn of speed this year. Currently the Monaghan driver is just two points behind Mr Fitzmaurice.
Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC), fresh from his win in the recent Maze Long Kesh's Festival of Speed, is another driver to have failed to finish one of the three events to date, so a top finish on the roads of Co Carlow is vital to his Dunlop bid.