Motorsport: Victory crucial to Maguire's record title bid
Niall Maguire knows his bid for a record fourth Dunlop National Rally Championship title hinges on victory in this weekend's Sepam Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally.
Maguire (Subaru WRC) carries the series lead to Clonmel but the drop-score points system -- a driver counts his best eight results from the 10 championship events -- means that the Monaghan man is on the back foot heading to Sunday's eighth round.
Welshman Mel Evans (Subaru WRC) has won four times this season, and his points total of 112 is just six points behind Maguire's. Another victory would edge him closer to becoming the first overseas driver to win the Vard Memorial Trophy.
"I really need to win in Clonmel, but it is a tall order," said Maguire, who has scored in all rounds this season but has won just once.
"In terms of the Dunlop championship, the situation will be much clearer on Sunday evening."
The Clonmel event hasn't always been kind to Maguire. In 2004, he crashed heavily and more recently he was denied victory by a puncture on the final corner.
Following retirements in Mayo and Sligo, the third title contender, Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) -- who won the Circuit of Kerry on a tie-break and took top points in Cavan -- knows that he cannot afford another non-finish.
Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) may be out of contention for the overall award but his performances can still play a major role in the destiny of the title.
Denied victory in the Circuit of Kerry, he has the pace to gain his first Dunlop win of the season and his finish position could have repercussions for the title-chasing trio of Maguire, Evans and McGarrity.
Elsewhere, Patrick McKenna kept his bid for glory in the USF2000 series on track with a double podium score at Autobahn, Illinois, last weekend and is still in touch with series leader Sage Karam in the race for the series top prize of a scholarship drive in Star Mazda next season.
In rallying, Craig Breen has been nominated by MSI to represent Ireland in the forthcoming Northern European section of the Pirelli Star Driver Shootout in Sweden on August 14.