Quality field gives Elfyn Evans food for thought
Elfyn Evans and Alastair Fisher lead the line-up as the British and Irish Tarmac championship contenders go head-to-head in next week's Ulster Rally.
Welshman Evans, whose father Gwyndaf won the Ulster Rally back in 1989, is the clear leader of the British series heading into the final two rounds but Fisher is tied at the top of the Irish championship with Sam Moffett.
And there is more than points at stake in the John Mulholland Motors-sponsored event which begins from Guildhall Square, Londonderry on Friday week. There is national pride too as the top two championships in the British Isles converge for the second time this season.
Back in April it was Craig Breen who won the Circuit of Ireland on a one-off appearance away from his Citroen duties but it was Fisher and the other Moffett brother, Josh, who took the inter-championship honours and they will be keen to uphold local pride again on their home roads.
Evans, who has been mixing his British appearances with a successful WRC2 campaign in the World championship, is seeded No.1 in his DMACK R5 Ford Fiesta in a 140-strong entry list which sees Fisher at No.2, also in a Fiesta, and Ireland's three-time British champion Keith Cronin at three in a Citroen DS3.
Sweden's Fredrik Ahlin makes his Ulster Rally debut at No.4 ahead of Scot David Bogie and the top 10 contains the strong Irish contingent of the Moffett brothers, Desi Henry and former British Junior champion Marty McCormack.
At No.9 is two-time Ulster winner Garry Jennings, who switches from his regular WRC Subaru Impreza to drive an R5 development Mitsubishi Mirage for the first time.
Both championships now concentrate on the newer generation of R5/S2000 cars but the old WRC supercars which have dominated Irish rallying for decades are still eligible to take part.
Only two are entered, however - the Ford Fiesta of former winner Derek McGarrity and the Mini of Alan Carmichael, who finished second behind McGeehan Motorsport team-mate Alan McGeehan in the Dogleap Rally at the weekend.