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maguire firmly in evans' sights

THE destination of the Dunlop national rally title may be decided in Clare this weekend. It will be a three-way shoot-out between three-times champion Niall Maguire, Welshman Melvyn Evans and Ulsterman Derek McGarrity.

Evans is best placed to take the crown and become the first overseas driver to take the Dunlop title. He goes into the penultimate round requiring a minimum of 16 points (third registered finisher) to win the series -- albeit on a tie-break -- but he has five maximum scores which neither of his rivals can match.

Should Maguire win the final two rounds he can amass 148 points after dropped scores are taken into account, but he has only one win to his credit. Two wins would give Derek McGarrity a total of 146 points having failed to finish two events.

Current leader Maguire was pragmatic when asked what tactics he would use, saying: "The same as all other events. I will go as hard as I can. With the S11 I'm losing out to Mel (Evans) and Derek (McGarrity) particularly on junctions where I'm down a couple of seconds each time -- the S12s have the punch. But it's not over yet. There are still two rounds and anything can happen."

Interestingly, as well as winning three titles the Monaghan ace finished runner-up in the national series on eight different occasions.

Knowing he can clinch the title on Sunday, Evans is unlikely to take any unnecessary chances while McGarrity has the most difficult task and stated his ambition is to win in Clare, although he admits he needs Evans to falter. Two other world rally cars will appear as Tim McNulty and Darragh O'Riordan use the event as a shakedown for the international Cork 20 rally in two weeks' time.

p Andy O'Brien is a man on a mission at present. The 16-year-old Templeogue driver is making up for lost time. Never having raced in karts or rallycross before he got his first competition licence last July he has claimed six podium finishes from the six Ginetta Junior races he has driven in to-date. His success was noted by the Dunlop Young Racing Driver selection panel and he was awarded the monthly trophy for August. The St MacDaras Community College student -- who is preparing for Leaving certificate exams next June -- is considering racing in Britain and Europe in the future.

p Alistair Fisher has been drafted into the JRM Mitsubishi team for the Yorkshire Rally in eight days time. He replaces Icelandic driver Daniel Siguardarson and joins Gwyndaf Evans in an effort to secure the manufacturers' trophy. However JRM will need both cars to finish above its rivals to secure the title.

The 22-year-old Co Tyrone driver -- who secured the Irish Tarmac Group N title on the Ulster rally -- will drive the new national specification EvoX in the final British championship round in Yorkshire.

It is the perfect solution for Fisher who was considering missing the final British round because the final Irish Tarmac round takes place one week later in Cork. "I'm really looking forward to working with the team and see how the EvoX compares with my current Evo9. I think it will go well bearing in mind the fast stages in Yorkshire," said Fisher, who will test the car before it makes its competitive debut in Yorkshire.

Fisher scored a hard-earned victory on his home event -- the Enniskillen Fisher Engineering Lakelands rally -- last Saturday. Just one second separated the Trillick native and British championship rival Jonny Greer after eight hard-fought stages giving him his first overall win in his Evo9. Both were using the event as a shakedown for the final British championship round.

p The Rallying for Galway Hospice team headed by Galway MC pair John Spain and Jarlath Conneely raised €15,000 for Galway Hospice in conjunction with the recent Galway Summer rally.

p A brace of runner-up spots to Sam Moffett at Wexford secured Brendan Cumiskey the Irish Evo crown for the second time in three years.

He will go to the FxPro Cyprus rally where he will challenge the British and Swedish champions in a shoot-out for the inaugural European Evo Challenge crown in November.

p Martin Hillery replaces Dermot Saurin as chairman of the Kart Racing committee and as a Commission member.

p Will Eoin Murray strike gold at Valencia twice? Five years ago he won the European Alfa Romeo 147 championship at the Spanish circuit and this weekend he returns there well placed to add the SEAT Leon Eurocup to his portfolio of European championships.

Seven points separate the Firhouse driver from joint championship leaders Michael Rossi and Gabor Weber.

p After the final round in Wexford provisional results show Andrew Fanning (99 points), Mick Nevin (86), Mick Cuddihy (70), Seán Benskin (42), Jason Roche (37) and Pat O'Connell (60) as class winners in the Triton Showers South-East championship.