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Hirvonen set for Cork rally

By Sammy Hamill

Ford are expected to send their rising Finnish star Mikko Hirvonen to the final round of the Irish Tarmac rally championship in Cork in October.

Team boss Malcolm Wilson has confirmed he wants to take in one more Irish event ahead of Rally Ireland, the penultimate round of the World Championship in November.

Ford number one and World championship leader Marcus Gronholm had his first taste of Irish rallying back in February when he won the Galway International in an initial test run ahead of Rally Ireland.

Since then World champion Sebastien Loeb and the Citroen team followed suit by contesting - and winning - the Donegal International in June.

But Ford have now introduced an updated version of the WRC Focus and Wilson is keen to test it on Irish tarmac, especially as the drivers' and manufacturers' championships look set to go down to the final two rounds.

Wilson said: "Its not confirmed but we're trying to do one more rally in Ireland and Cork would fit into our schedule."

He added that it was likely Hirvonen, currently third in the series behind Gronholm and Loeb, would get the drive.

Meanwhile, Andrew Nesbitt has confirmed he will drive the McKinstry Motorsport Subaru S11 on this weekend's PWT Ulster International.

It will be the former Tarmac champion and Ulster Rally winner's first appearance since he retired after just three stages of the Donegal International in June although he has been competing in rallycross in Belgium and Holland recently.

Kris Meeke, of course, won the Rally of the Lakes earlier in the year in the McKinstry S11, but he switches to Pirelli's DMG Subaru which is usually driven by British champion Mark Higgins.

The Ulster Rally, which starts on Friday, is based in Nesbitt's home city of Armagh and he intends using it as a warm-up ahead of Rally Ireland.

"I haven't been able to do many events this year, but with the Ulster being my home event it was an ideal opportunity to get in some mileage before Rally Ireland which is my main goal," he said.

"I put the entry in not knowing if Kenny McKinstry's S11 would be available, but he has since come back from holiday in Canada and confirmed it will be ready to go on Friday."

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