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Barrable set to move up a gear

IRISH rallying can look forward to a bright future as rising star Robert Barrable joins Keith Cronin, Craig Breen and several Ulster drivers on the international stage.

Coming from a family with motor sport in its blood, it is not surprising that young Barrable took this road as his preferred sport. He combined karting with Leaving Cert studies in his debut year in the sport.

Although he was a late starter -- at 17 -- he wasted little time in achieving success firstly in racing and then successfully switching to rallying. He won the Irish Formula Ford 1600 championship in his second year of racing but did not have sufficient funding to climb further up the racing ladder.

"Rallying was an aspect of the sport I always considered and when I saw the prize drive Fiesta for the Billy Coleman Award winner at the Motorsport Champions lunch last year I realised rallying was the way I wanted to go and the Fiestas seemed a handy way into rallying."


He entered both the Irish and British Fiesta championships, finishing third in the Irish series. He claimed podium finishes in all but his first round and earned the Irish wildcard entry to the international Fiesta shoot-out.

As he had little rallying experience, he asked Dermot O'Gorman -- who co-drove with his father Michael for many years -- to be his co-driver. The only co-driver to win three major championships in the same year, O'Gorman was a superb mentor.

"He gave me a tremendous insight into how to prepare and compile effective pace notes by highlighting and grading road surface conditions for bumps and other obstructions such as on rocks jutting out of banks -- anything that could affect or help improve my time on the stage," said Barrable.

Another vastly experienced co-driver, Damien Connolly, joined him for the Trackrod -- the final British round -- and they got on so well they decided to continue the partnership this year and to switch to the Citroën series this year.

He switched to the Citroën series because he felt Citroën offered a better overall package -- and the cash prizes after each round and at the end of the championship certainly help.

The pair compete against 13 determined rivals but the combination of Barrable and Connolly has worked well so far.

They have scored three wins, one second and a retirement in their five outings this year. "I would like to do the national junior championship, but I do not have the funding or the time to it because of my commitment to both the Irish and British Citroën Cup Challenges. But I hope my results in both championships will be recognised and I will be considered for a wildcard nomination for the Billy Coleman Award this year," said the young Swords ace.

He is looking forward to his next British championship outing -- the Jim Clark -- in just over a week.

"I won on tarmac in Galway and Killarney so I'm well prepared for the Scottish tarmac stages and hope to claim maximum points in the Citroën challenge again," said a confident Barrable.

p Championship meetings listed for the weekend include the IKC kart meeting at the Kiltorcan karting facility at Ballyhale, Co Kilkenny on Sunday while Wexford MC hosts a hillclimb championship double header at Duncannon on Saturday and moving to Fethard-on-Sea on Sunday.

Skibbereen & DMC holds an autotest double-header at Bandon Co-op Bandon and Laois RC has planned a two-day 4x4 trial at Portarlington while the Birr club is organising a loose surface autocross at Shinrone on Sunday.

p The North Armagh MCs Loughgall Stages rally must be unique in that the top 15 seeds are all driving Mk2 Escorts. Headed by Wesley Patterson, the line-up includes nearly all leading Ulster Escort drivers including Camillus Bradley, Adrian Hetherington, Mervyn Wedlock and Michael Conlon. The six-stage event takes place within the grounds of Loughgall Country Park on Saturday.

p Despite a disappointing entry to-date the MI Golf Classic is going ahead at the Glen of the Downs Golf Club next Thursday. Conscious that the current economic situation is affecting entries the organising committee has reduced the entry fee to €400 for a four-person team. Michael O'Carroll (087 2433211) is the person to contact with your entry.

p The Golf Classic is not the only aspect of motor sport affected by the economic downturn. Motorsport Ireland reports a fall-off in the number of competition licences issued up to April 30 this year.

A total of 260 first-time licences were issued this year compared with 338 last year and an all-time high of 554 in 2000.

The number of renewals also showed a drop, at 2,773, compared with 3,051 last year and an all-time high of 3,378 in 2008.