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Motorsport: McNulty looks to make mark in bumper Dunlop field

In contrast to the opening round of the Tarmac Series in Galway a fortnight ago, this weekend's first round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship boasts an entry of quality and quantity.

While just 44 cars, plus junior and historic entrants, left the start ramp in Oranmore on February 4, a capacity 151 crews plus juniors and historics are primed for action at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally on Sunday. The Tarmac championship organisers announced that they have bowed to the inevitable and cancelled the planned trip to the Jim Clark Rally in Scotland, thus reducing the series to six rounds.

Interestingly, Galway winner and Tarmac stalwart Tim McNulty, partnered by Paul Kiely, has entered this weekend's national championship event and also plans to contest round two in Monaghan before making a decision on the rest of his campaign.

The Meathman's Subaru is one of four WRC machines on the top-10 list, in contrast to just two in Galway, where the significant added expense of a two-day full international event clearly had an effect on the turnout.

McNulty's first victory in Galway after many years of trying was a relatively straightforward affair, but this weekend promises to be a tougher proposition against a field headed by reigning Dunlop champions Mel Evans and Patrick Walsh.

Derek McGarrity believes he can challenge the top runners in a Group N Mitsubishi Evo X, while Niall Maguire and Kevin Barrett will compete in their WRC Subarus.

Meanwhile, a Munster-based group has announced plans for the inaugural Irish Festival of Speed based at Adare Manor on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The idea is the brainchild of a group of like-minded motorsport and motoring enthusiasts led by Lord Inchiquin, Conor O'Brien.

The event will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1936 Limerick Grand Prix.

Formula One racing will be represented in the form of Rubens Barrichello's Jordan F1 car along with Jaguar F1 cars as driven by David Coulthard and Mark Webber.

Irish Independent