The organisers of Britain's round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge must be cursing Kris Meeke.
His fourth victory of the season in Italy at the end of September put the title beyond reach even before the global IRC series reached Britain and next week's final round.
As a consequence, Meeke’s major rivals have all turned tail and given up, leaving the new champion from Dungannon to lead a heavily depleted entry list for the Rally of Scotland.
Jan Kopecky, Juha Hanninen, Giandomenico Basso, Anton Alen, even his own Peugeot team-mates Nicolas Vouilloz and Freddie Loix have all abandoned the chase and will skip the Scottish forests to focus on renewed challenges next season.
In their absence, Meeke finds himself at the head of a field which contains a number of familiar faces from back home, including new British champion Keith Cronin from Cork, young Ulster drivers Alastair Fisher and Jonny Greer, and former Irish Tarmac champion Eamonn Boland, all making first appearances in the IRC.
The one major threat to Meeke’s supremacy is expected to come from two-time British champion Guy Wilks, an old rival from their Junior World championship days. The Yorkshireman has been driving for the fledgling Proton team in the IRC this season but parted company with them in time to switch to Skoda for Scotland.
Wilks was thought to be a strong contender for selection for the BF Goodrich-funded opportunity to join Meeke’s Kronos Racing team, driving an identical Peugeot 207. But he withdrew his name at the last minute, choosing instead the Skoda option.
The panel of judges then sparked amazement by picking another young English driver, Adam Gould, for this prized drive even though he had been out-performed all season in the British championship by, among others, the Ulster duo of Fisher and Greer.
The Rally of Scotland is based at Perth and starts next Thursday evening.
LEADING ENTRIES: 1 Kris Meeke (Peugeot 207 S2000), 2 Guy Wilks (Skoda Fabia S2000), 3 Keith Cronin (Abarth Grande Punto S2000), 4 Adam Gould (Peugeot 207 S2000), 5 David Bogie (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 6 Franz Wittmann (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 7 Jonny Greer (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 8 Dave Weston (Subaru Impreza N), 9 Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 10 Alister McRae (Proton Satria S2000).