Defending champion Derek McGarrity is to opt out of the Northern Ireland rally championship and will concentrate instead on his Irish national title chase.
McGarrity has won three of the first four rounds and leads the Hankook NI championship but has decided to focus his attention south of the border and a title he has never won before.
“I’ve won the NI championship twice and would rather try to win the Irish national title for the first time,” said the four-time Circuit of Ireland winner from Mossley.
He is currently joint second in the national championship, eight points behind leader Niall Maguire going into Sunday’s fifth round in Cavan.
The opposition will include Tim McNulty who is using the event in an effort to shake out the bugs that have plagued his S12B Subaru in this year’s Tarmac championship.
But McNulty’s appearance will not affect championship contenders like McGarrity, Maguire, Mel Evans and Kevin Barrett as he is not a registered contender.
McGarrity’s decision means he will miss the Modern Tyre Service Mourne Rally, round five of the NI series on June 5, which he won last year.
However, he plans to take in the Lurgan Park Rally on July 31 in an effort to erase a rare ‘zero’ mark on his CV.
He will line-up against 11 times champion Kenny McKinstry for the popular park event which is again being sponsored by Orchard Motorsport.
In contrast to record-breaker McKinstry, McGarrity has missed out on numerous occasions but says: “I feel I should have won Lurgan Park at least a couple of times over the years but circumstances always seemed to intervene. It is my intention to win this time and prevent Kenny making it a round dozen.”
Meanwhile, for the first time in almost three decades this year’s Topaz Donegal Rally will feature a town centre stage.
The first leg of the three-day international event will be based up on the Inishowen peninsula and will finish with two short sprint stages through the streets of Buncrana. In times gone by town centre stages were included in many Irish rallies but were dropped in the ‘80s, mainly because of safety concerns and traffic problems.
The Donegal International, which is round four of the Citroen Irish Tarmac championship, takes place on June 18/20.