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Rallying in clear as row resolved

THE crisis that has engulfed rallying has been resolved.

Following a meeting just after Christmas between representatives of affiliated motor clubs and the Motorsport Commission, the commission eventually broke the deadlock on an ongoing political spat by agreeing to the demands of the Rallies Committee. All committees were reinstated.

One of the outstanding features of the meeting was that the grassroots -- in particular rallying, the most popular branch of the sport accounting for more than 2,000 competition licences -- will have a say in how the sport will be governed in the future.

A root and branch restructuring of the sport will be undertaken with clubs being able to place other issues of concern before the next Competitions Advisory Committee next month.

Any business will be further developed and debated in about six months' time.

p While outgoing chairman John Naylor has withdrawn his nomination to the 2010 Rallies Committee he remains on the Commission and it appears that Robert Corrigan will not be on the Technical Advisory Group.

Little has been said about the future of Rally Ireland and the losses for the Sligo-based event have yet to be revealed.

Apart from that, it would appear the event faces a serious challenge from the Circuit of Ireland which has secured IRC supporter event status.

The popular IRC series has attracted eight manufacturers and counts Irish crew Kris Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle as reigning champions.

Several Irish crews are looking at contesting the series this year.

p Galway MC continues with preparations for the Safety Direct international rally -- which kicks off the six-round Irish Tarmac championship -- in four weeks' time. Tim McNulty in his Subaru S12B is the top ITRC entry to-date. He will be co-driven by David Moynihan.

Winner and runner-up last year respectively, Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia WRC) and Gareth MacHale (Focus WRC) return to resume their battle for outright honours in Galway on February 5.

Donnelly is working hard on securing sponsorship for the event as he aims for a record sixth title this year. Kevin Barrett/Sean Mullaly and local crew JJ Fleming/David Hogan -- both in Subarus -- are other early entries.

p Billy Coleman Award winner and multiple Fiesta champion Craig Breen is expected to give the Fiesta S2000 its Irish tarmac debut. The young Kilkenny star will return the following weekend for the opening forestry championship round in Tipperary.

British rally champion Keith Cronin, past Dunlop national champion Alan Ring and Gary Jennings are early Group N entrants while local stars Tom Fleming/ Patrick Curley and Tommy Flanagan/ Leanne Flanagan -- both in Escort Mk2s -- are among the first entries in the modified class.

The event organisers have been busy revising road closing applications after they had to revise parts of the route because of the serious flooding before Christmas.

Rally headquarters is Clayton Hotel Ballybrit while Oranmore will host the ceremonial start on Friday night and the finish on Sunday afternoon. It will also be the base for centralised servicing on both days.

p Respected co-driver and international motorsport consultant Bobby Willis has taken over the day-to-day control of the Circuit of Ireland with a vision of re-establishing the event as one of the leading rallies in Europe.

He scored a coup when he secured IRC supporter event status for the historic Easter event.

The status allows the event to be profiled on the global stage and signals IRC intent to consider the event a potential round of the popular series.

Now in its fourth year the popular Fiesta championship comprises all six rounds of the Tarmac championship with all to count for points.

The series will be of a one-day format and run on the first day, giving competitors the option of continuing in the rally proper to score Tarmac championship points.

Both the existing ST and new R2 versions are eligible for the series. As well as winning a drive in the Condroz rally in Belgium the champion, along with a wildcard entry, will go forward to the FST international shoot-out in November with a chance to win 12 months' employment with M-Sport in Cumbria.

p Citroen is another manufacturer that will use the Tarmac championship as its base for a one-make series. The series will run over the full two days of each of the rallies with a €20,000 prize fund available on each event.

p Weather conditions permitting, Monaghan MC will hold a navigation trial starting from Lisdoonan, Co Monaghan on Saturday night, while Midland MC hosts a Hewison championship round at Mastertech Business Park, Athlone Road, Longford on Sunday (11am start).


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