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O'Connell sits in driving seat

The momentum is with Pat O'Connell to become national forestry champion, but to be sure of the title he has to beat Dubliner John Reid in a Tipperary v Dublin challenge on Saturday.

The Cashel Motor Factors driver holds a 24-point advantage over Reid, who still has a mathematical chance of taking the title should O'Connell hit mechanical trouble on Saturday.

Cork MC has planned a tough, day-long event as it hosts the penultimate round in north Cork on Saturday. O'Connell scored a hat-trick of wins early in the year and got second-place points -- although he finished third -- in Donegal. Meanwhile, Reid finished runner-up to the Tipperary driver on the opening three rounds but failed to score in Donegal when he suffered his first retirement in 18 rallies when the steering arm broke on his Corolla WRC machine.

Just two points behind Reid in third place is leading two-wheel drive exponent Mick Cuddihy, who leads his class by a huge margin, while Mark Murphy is fourth overall in his Subaru Impreza.

Based at the Roundabout Inn, Mallow, the eight-stage route consists of two stages completed twice on the morning followed by two stages done twice in the afternoon.

p Craig Breen will be ready to represent Ireland in the Northern European section of the FIA Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out after finishing 19th overall in Finland to record his best world championship result.

The current junior champion will challenge the best young talent from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Great Britain and a host of Eastern European countries for one of the two places in the shoot-out final.

The regional shoot-out takes place in conjunction with the Snapphane rally in Hassleholm, Sweden, on Saturday. Run over five gravel stages with points allocated for each stage, the driver with the highest number of points will be declared the winner and will go forward to the Grand Final later in the year. The Grand Final winner will get a fully sponsored drive in the world rally championship next year.

p The cancellation of the Phoenix Park races and Laois hillclimb gives an indication of how hard motorsport is being hit by the economic downturn. The former is not viable because of a lack of entries and insufficient sponsorship revenue and the latter because of road closing problems. Those cancellations bring to 10 the number of events either cancelled or postponed since June for a variety of reasons -- mostly because of a lack of entries or a sponsorship shortfall.

p The new rallycross season gets under way at Pembrey, South Wales, on October 10 with a round of the British championship. It will be followed by five rounds at Mondello Park on October 17, November 7 and 21, February 6 and 20, and the final round on March 13. A Rallycross Grand Prix is planned for Mondello Park on June 26 next year.

p Midland MC hosts a grass autocross championship double-header at Scramogue, Co Roscommon, this weekend, while Monaghan MC will hold a loose surface autocross at Carricknaveagh, Virginia, Co Cavan, on Sunday.

p Motorsport will be the poorer after 97-year-old Wilford Fitzsimmons died last Saturday. His interest in motorsport spanned nine decades during which he scored many notable achievements including contesting the Monte Carlo Rally in the 1950s.


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