Motorsport: Maguire to keep home fires burning after World setback
While the rally community digests the news Rally Ireland has failed to gain a place on the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar for 2011, life goes on with the start of a new Dunlop National Rally Championship season in Nenagh. Other organisers are also producing recession-beating incentives to entice new competitors to the sport.
The news that Rally Ireland is not on the 2011 calendar forwarded by WRC promoters North One to the FIA World Council for final ratification next month is not unexpected given the political gamble taken by Motorsport Ireland in giving its backing to Ari Vatanen in the FIA presidential election last summer.
Vatanen was well beaten by former Ferrari supremo Jean Todt, himself a former world rally championship co-driver who is known to have taken a close personal interest in the composition of next year's WRC roster.
Todt was particularly eager to create geographical diversity in the new schedule and entreaties from new MSI President Joe Corcoran are unlikely to have been heard with the same sympathy than would have been the case had Vatanen been in the presidential seat.
MSI insists that Rally Ireland will continue to be a partner in the World Rally Organisers Group with a view to capitalising on any opportunities that may arise, but the very real possibility remains that Ireland's two-year odyssey at world-championship level is at an end.
Rallying goes on at home and the first round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, the Abbey Court Hotel Nenagh Rally on Sunday, has an entry of 124 crews, despite the late withdrawal of reigning champion Patrick Elliott due to business commitments.
Elliott's absence will pave the way for last year's runner-up Niall Maguire to open an early gap at the top of the standings in the 10-event series, but the former champion is facing the intriguing challenge of former Tarmac Series champion Derek McGarrity, contesting his first national championship.
McGarrity, Subaru WRC equipped like Maguire and other top-four seeds Kevin Barrett and Mel Evans, will be unfamiliar with Sunday's Birr and DMC-run event, but he will be nicely tuned up by competing in Saturday's first round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship in Kirkistown.
Meanwhile, it's not so long since Irish rally organisers were turning away entrants in their droves as events were massively over-subscribed.
Competitor numbers remain strong nationwide but a new 2010 Event Incentive Plan from Carrick-on-Suir Motor Club indicates that local rallying is now more of a buyer's than a seller's market.
All entrants for the Willie Loughman Forestry Rally paid up by this Friday's closing date will be entered into a draw for a number of prizes including a full forestry entry refund, a free entry for the 2010 Ravens Rock Rally and a free entry for the inaugural COS MC Halloween Historic Stages Rally as well as a number of cash prizes.
Continuing the theme of value-for-money motorsport, Mondello Park plays host to a fully subscribed two-day rally sprint this weekend billed as an Inter-Provincial Championship.
Promoted by the Portadown-based Rallysport Association, the non-MSI affiliated business runs affordable events with a simple class structure and very little administrative red tape to complicate the process for competitors.
The entry list includes drivers from across the motorsports community, few of whom appear concerned by the possibility of incurring the ire of Motorsports Ireland or the UK Motorsports Authority by competing in an event which, it must be stated, carries full public liability indemnity.