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MacHale needs bottle in cork

Gareth MacHale holds the upper hand as he heads to the Irish Tarmac finale in Cork this weekend. He is one of four who could win the title as only 13 points separate the quartet -- Gareth and Aaron MacHale, Craig Breen and Alistair Fisher. And with 50pc bonus points on offer, with the winner taking 24, the competition between them will be hectic over the 18-stage route.

The Dubliner will be hoping to repeat his 2009 win and secure his first Tarmac title. He starts with a four-point advantage over Alistair Fisher but his advantage is even stronger than it appears as he also has a dropped score due to his non-finish in Killarney.

Fisher has already clinched the Group N title but he will be at a disadvantage not only because he is up against the more powerful world rally cars of the MacHale brothers and Craig Breen in his Fiesta S2000 but also because he will have to drop points as only his best five scores from six events will count.

Gareth MacHale will have to keep a close watch on Clare winner Tim McNulty and Killarney international winner Denis Cronin as both are well capable of taking the challenge to him this weekend. Third seed Darren Gass is a doubtful starter while Group N champion Ger O'Donovan is definitely out.

Fisher faces local aces Kevin Kelleher and Owen Murphy as he aims for a Group N victory. Another past Group N champion Colm Murphy is seeded 12th but has yet to nominate a car or co-driver.

Robert Barrable will be hoping to add the Irish Citroen C2R2 crown to the British title he clinched last weekend but his task will be much harder now with Marty McCormack joining the Citroen line-up in Cork having secured a late entry here in place of his planned world championship run in France this weekend.

There will be plenty of battles for class honours throughout the field particularly in the Modified category where Mervyn Wedlock heads the standings by six points from Geoffrey Dolan, with Barry Meade and John Mulholland not far behind. Todd Falvey tops the Historic class while Jonathan O'Callaghan will lead the 20-strong entry in the Junior event.

p As Irish competitors accounted for almost 25pc of the entries, it comes as no surprise that they swamped the winners' circle collecting the lion's share of the awards at the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire last Saturday.

Keith Cronin made history as the first Irish driver to win the British championship twice. The Corkman drove a restrained event, knowing a top-seven finish was enough to retain the British title for another year.

He finished third behind the Mitsubishis of Gwyndaf Evans and Alistair Fisher, becoming the first Irishman to win the British crown twice while co-driver Barry McNulty took the co-driver's title for the first time.

Runner-up Fisher was awarded the Pirelli Star Driver nomination for his performance on his first outing in the national EvoX.

He, along with fellow Irishmen Craig Breen, Daniel McKenna, Robert Barrable and Jonny Greer account for half of the nominations for the shoot-out for a funded drive in the 2011 British championship.

Monaghanman McKenna surprised many with his performance in a rented left-hand drive Evo9, finishing fourth on only his second British championship outing -- and first on gravel.

Barrable clinched the British Citroen championship with four wins from six starts, scoring 108 points from a possible 110 in the process.

The 23-year-old Swords driver was 10th in the overall championship and second in the junior section and also won a Pirelli Star Drive nomination as best junior in the Citroen series.

Despite retiring after rolling his car into retirement on the second stage, Greer won the British Evo Challenge by a single point and with it a Pirelli Star Drive nomination.

He will join Brendan Cumiskey and Swedish champion Jimmy Joge in a shoot-out on the Cyprus Rally next month to become the inaugural European Evo champion.

Galwayman Jonathan Cunningham added the BRC Challenge runner-up award to the Fiesta SportChallenge title he won earlier in the year. Breen was unlucky to hit a pothole that turned his Fiesta S2000 on its side losing him eight minutes but the Waterford ace eventually finished ninth overall.

p Niall Murray clinched the inaugural Ginetta Junior championship at Kirkistown last Saturday. Knowing at least fifth place was enough to win the title the 15-year-old Dubliner drove a mature race to finish third. Andy O'Brien, who started from pole and set fastest lap, won the race. Murray went on to win his second race.

p Laois RC holds a sprint at Pallas Karting Centre in Tynagh, Co Galway, on Sunday while on the same day the Mayo club is organising a loose surface autocross at Swinford and Monaghan MC has planned a navigation trial starting in Ballybay on the previous evening.