Eugene Donnelly is out of next week’s Ulster International Rally.
Donnelly, the four-time Irish Tarmac champion and double Ulster winner, has been forced to withdraw his entry due to the difficult economic climate which has seen sponsorship opportunities dry up.
“Finding funding for rallying at the moment is virtually impossible,” said the Maghera driver who was favourite to win his home round of the Tarmac series.
“It is an expensive sport and companies find it hard to justify pouring money into sponsorship when they may be faced with laying people off.”
Donnelly called off his bid for a record fifth Tarmac title earlier this year when a hoped for major sponsorship package fell through.
But he returned for the Donegal International in June and pulled off a stunning victory in his Skoda Fabia.
“My Tarmac title may have gone but I was hoping to finish the season by doing the final two rounds, the Ulster and the Cork ‘20’, to set myself up for next season. But the current economic situation makes that impossible,” he said. “It is disappointing, especially after we had made such good progress with the Skoda in Donegal, but I have had to be sensible and accept that the funding just isn’t in place.”
Nevertheless, the Ulster Rally still has a capacity entry list headed by Tarmac champion-elect Eamonn Boland and Britain’s top pair, Guy Wilks and Mark Higgins.