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Cronin to tackle donegal in Evo X

Hot on the heels of his uncle's first international win in Killarney comes the news that reigning British champion Keith Cronin will drive the JRM-run Mitsubishi Evo X in the Topaz Donegal international rally next month.

Although contracted to Pirelli to drive for the TEG Sport Subaru team both companies have agreed to release him for the event. Both companies believe it is important for a young driver to grasp every opportunity available and as the Donegal event does not conflict with his programme both are happy for him to accept the offer.

Pleased to get the opportunity of clocking up more competitive miles, Cronin said: "Although I haven't driven an Evo X before, I won my British title in a Mitsubishi so it will be interesting to see how good the new car is against my older version. I'm looking forward to competing in Ireland with a different car and must thank JRM TEG Sport and Pirelli for allowing me this great opportunity."

Before then he is keeping his hand in with an outing on the Manx national this weekend. He is using the event as a test exercise to clock up tarmac mileage and become more acclimatised with the Pirelli-backed Subaru N15 in preparation for the Jim Clark -- the next British championship round -- at the end of the month.

p Declan Grogan of Carlow CC teamed up with On the Limit Sports TV producer Mick Bracken to create the Escort Mk2 Challenge five years ago. It proved an outstanding success from the start and the Carlow Stages rally is recognised as the premier Escort Mk2 round.

The Challenge has attracted 52 entries including top Irish drivers Seamus O'Connell, Des Moore, Brian Lawlor and with the cross-channel field led by Simon Mauger. The main event has attracted over 80 entries but top seed Michael Barrable will be a non-starter this time. Seven juniors are also listed for the event based at Leighlinbridge.

p Kris Meeke and Tim McNulty found to their cost how cruel rallying can be last weekend. Meeke -- fastest on nine of the 15-stage IRC rounds in Gran Canaria -- saw his 17.9 seconds lead drop to a 1m 28s deficit when a tyre punctured on SS8. The Ulsterman eventually finished fourth behind the Skoda trio of Jan Kopecky, Juho Hanninen and Guy Wilks. Hanninen now leads the series on 32 points with Meeke fourth on 15 points.

Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle have put the disappointment behind them and headed to France to prepare for the next IRC round in Sardinia next month. "We're going testing in the Alps where there is some ground not unlike the gravel we can expect in Sardinia," said Meeke. "The opposition is truly tough this year -- probably the toughest in any year since the IRC began and we can't leave anything to chance."

Tim McNulty was another victim of misfortune in Killarney. Having led from the start he was forced into retirement with transmission trouble with three remaining stages and an advantage of nearly two minutes.

His retirement handed Denis Cronin and Helen O'Sullivan their first international win from Aaron MacHale with Craig Breen third. Alistair Fisher -- who was as high as second but dropped behind MacHale and Breen -- now leads the Citroen Irish tarmac championship from Aaron MacHale by a single point with Breen third a further four points adrift of MacHale.

p A consistent drive by Robert Barrable saw him take his second win in the Irish Citroen racing Challenge in Killarney to lie second in the championship. The young Swords ace also leads the British series.

p MEC faces a busy day when they host a 15-race programme at Mondello Park on Sunday. A shortfall in entries for Porsche and Supercar classes has resulted in both being combined into one race.

p Teams from the Republic will challenge Northern Ireland teams for the James Pringle Memorial Trophy when they line up in the TDC autotest international event at Profile Park Industrial Estate, Nangor Road, Clondalkin on Saturday. The club's Beginners championship kicks off on the following day at the same venue.

p Reigning champion Derek McGarrity heads a 100-strong entry for the Tour of the Sperrins rally on Saturday. The six-stage event -- the fourth round of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland championship -- will see competitors tackle two loops of three stages around Maghera.

p ALMC has attracted a wide range of exotic and interesting machinery -- both cars and bikes -- for their annual Motorshow at North City Hotel Gormanston on Sunday. Promoted as a family day it is open between 11.30am and 5pm and admission is free.