Ford rally boss Malcolm Wilson backs new-look Irish Tarmac Championship
Ford World rally team boss Malcolm Wilson has lent his support for a revamped Irish Tarmac Championship in 2016.
Wilson flew in from his Cumbria base to attend the launch of next year's series at Mondello race circuit yesterday and gave his approval for the Tarmac shake-up, which will see the emphasis switch from older WRC supercars which have dominated for decades to the newer, more affordable R5 and S2000 class cars.
The move has split Irish rallying down the middle but Wilson, himself a former Ulster Rally winner, sees it as the right move.
Although Ireland has been a steady market for his ex-works WRC Fords, Wilson believes the practical way forward for regional Championships like the Tarmac series is in the lower-tech R5 machines, many of which are already produced by his M-Sport organisation.
He says it will encourage the younger generation of Irish drivers to aspire to become Tarmac champion and also to look beyond Ireland to European and even World Championship level.
The new-look Championship, again supported by the Clonakilty Black Pudding company, kicks off in February with the Galway International and will include the Donegal Rally after the organisers did a U-turn on their decision to boycott the series.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland will bid to make it four wins in a row in the annual Ken Wharton International autotest competition at Alcester tomorrow. England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are also taking part.
The NI team is led by multi British and Irish champion Stephen Ferguson in his Mini Special and includes Robin Lyons (Mini), the leader of the Irish Hewison Trophy series, Paul Blair (Stryker) and Paul Mooney (Vauxhall Corsa).