Todds Leap option taken out of my hands: McGarrity
He's a former winner but Derek McGarrity will not be bidding to repeat his 2010 victory at next week's Todds Leap Ulster International Rally.
Instead, the reigning Northern Ireland champion will line up in the national division of the Enniskillen-based event which hosts rounds of both the premier Irish Tarmac and British championships.
"I wanted to do the international as I always have done but the way it is structured this year I wouldn't be able to score points in the Northern Ireland championship," explained McGarrity, who again leads his home series as he chases a record fifth title.
"The national rally covers three fewer stages and the organisers also felt, rightly or wrongly, the national competitors would be at a disadvantage as they will be finishing the Friday night leg in the dark. It is disappointing but the decision was taken out of my hands," added McGarrity, who will be at the wheel of his latest WRC Mini Countryman.
The former Tarmac champion won last weekend's Dogleap Rally in the Mini – the final one to be built by the Prodrive organisation – but he feels, until concessions are made by the Tarmac championship organisers, this current breed of WRC cars with their 1600cc engines are not competing on equal terms with the older two-litre supercars like the Subarus of Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings.
"They need to find a way to level up the playing field or the Tarmac championship will remain stuck in the past," he said.
The full entry lists for the international and national rallies will be announced later in the week but the provisional lists name current leader of the Tarmac series Boyle and last year's Ulster winner Jennings.
Included, too, is Eugene Donnelly, the record equalling five-times Tarmac champion and a three-times Ulster Rally winner. To date he hasn't specified which car he will drive.
The two leading contenders in the British championship, Ireland's Daniel McKenna and Welshman Osian Pryce, are also in the starting list. McKenna, this year's Pirelli Star Driver, leads Pryce by 20 points.