TIM McNULTY will set the standard for both home and visiting British WRC drivers when they line up for the ALMC City North Hotel rally on Sunday. The Meathman is expected to add to his West Cork and Cavan wins as he shakes down his Subaru S12 for the Ulster Rally in two weeks' time.
Intent on keeping his winning sequence, Michael Barrable will push McNulty to the limit but will also have to keep an eye as much on those behind him.
PJ McDermott in a Subaru S11 will keep last year's winner busy as will several cross-channel drivers -- Damien Cole and Michael OBrien in Focus WRCs John Stone (Skoda WRC) and Mark Jasper (Metro 6R4) -- as they fight for points in the British Asphalt series.
The Escort Mk2 Challenge has proved an outstanding success accounting for 40 entries -- one-third of the field. Visitor Simon Mauger is the benchmark for the Escorts but plenty of fireworks are promised as Kenny McKinstry swaps his Subaru WRC for an Escort for the day. Trevor Mulligan, Pat Donegan and Mick Curran are among the Irish drivers waiting in the wings for their moment of glory.
Neil McCance will not be able to repeat his Carlow and Ravens Rock outright victories but will be fighting to extend his lead in the Irish Evo Challenge.
p Kris Meeke refuses to concede defeat and has vowed to keep on trying to reduce his 27-point deficit in the IRC Challenge as he heads to the Azores this weekend.
The Ulsterman is in confident mood having won the rally last year saying, "you have to be much disciplined because there is little over the width of the car between stone walls. On gravel, grip is always progressive and it is easy to push to the limit, slide wide and hit a wall."
Meeke expects local hero Bruno Magalhaes to help him take the fight to Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky -- the works Skoda drivers who are dominating the series this year.
British driver Guy Wilks is still recovering from the back injury he suffered in Sardinia and will not be in action and neither will the Proton trio Chris Atkinson, Alistair McRae and Tom Cave, who all retired with mechanical problems at Ypres.
p New classes headline the 10-race programme at Mondello Park on Sunday as the sensational new ITCC class has its first ever double header and youngsters between 14 and 17 years will make their car racing debut in the inaugural Ginetta Junior Cup race.
The organising Carlow CC -- which has cut the meeting back to a one-day event -- expects a full 30-car grid for the ITCC races while Formula Vee Global Lights and Historic are the other featured classes.
p Kevin Sheane is the third nomination for the Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the Year title.
The 20-year-old Wicklow star was awarded the Dunlop Driver of the Month award for June following wins at Anglesey and Mondello Park where he added a second place for good measure.
He is in a strong position to challenge for the Formula Sheane title with three remaining rounds.
Meanwhile, he hopes to return to Formula Vee for a one-off drive in the Leinster Trophy in September as he would like to add his name to the list of famous drivers on the prestigious trophy.
p Irish drivers took the Isle of Man rally by storm last weekend as Keith Cronin resumed his winning ways, defeating Gwyndaf Evans in the works-run Mitsubishi EvoX to claim maximum points. He has fought his way back into contention for the title and lies two points behind Evans and six points behind championship leader Jonny Greer.
Another sterling performance from Robert Barrable saw the young Swords star claim his fourth top 10 finish in his Citroen C2R2 and extend his lead in the British Citroen series. He should clinch the British series on the Ulster international at the end of the month but will have to wait until the Cork 20 to learn if he has secured the Irish title.
Consistent results have kept Jonny Greer (Carryduff) at the top of the British Championship leaderboard which he can consolidate as the series moves to his home event in two weeks' time. He also heads British Evo Challenge by 26 points over Icelander Daniel Siguardarson.
Galway driver Jonathan Cunningham secured the Fiesta Sport Challenge title after scoring maximum points on the Isle of Man last weekend.
"It is great to wrap up the title so early in the year. I can't wait to get my hands on the Fiesta R2 and hopefully trade some stage times with Evans and McCrone," said the new champion.
p Chris Patterson got his world championship campaign off to a superb start by finishing third overall on his first outing with 2003 world rally champion Petter Solberg in Bulgaria last weekend.