It’s a long way from Tasmania to Northern Ireland but Stephen Turner is making the trip to take part in this weekend’s Todds Leap Ulster Rally.
By far the furthest travelled driver, Turner has journeyed to the UK to collect an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 rally car which he plans to use in the Australian Championship next season.
But first he will take the opportunity to assess the car on the British Championship section of the Ulster event which begins from Antrim on Friday.
Runner-up in the Australian Junior Championship last season, Turner has been driving a Ford Falcon XR6 but is now making the switch to one of the smaller, lighter Fiestas built by M-Sport, the Ford World Championship organisation.
“We had a lot of success with the XR6 but it was a big heavy car and it took a lot of effort to drive it fast,” explained the 26-year-old from Hobart who will be teamed with Devon co-driver James Aldridge for his UK debut.
“The Fiesta R2 is a much better rally car, it's got good suspension, big brakes and a sequential gearbox so it should be quick.
“If all goes to plan we will take the car back for Rally Victoria in November to see how it compares to our G2 formula and prepare for next year’s Australian Championship,” he added.
Turner joins a British Championship line-up which includes two of the fastest R2 class drivers in Britain, joint leader of the series Elfyn Evans and Ulster’s Alastair Fisher, who will also be driving Ford Fiestas, as well as former two-time champion Guy Wilks in a Renault Twingo.
Meanwhile another of the top Irish contenders — Tommy Doyle — used the Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally at the weekend to get to grips with his new Citroen DS3.
He finished in 11th place overall, second best of the front-wheel-drive contenders behind Desi Henry (ninth) and ahead of Jonny Greer (13th) and Mark Donnelly (14th) all of whom were also using the national event in preparation for the Ulster Rally.
The Tipperary round of the Irish national series was won by Brian O’Mahony in a McKinstry Motorsport Subaru S11.
He finished 43 seconds ahead of championship leader Thomas Fitzmaurice.