Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Loeb takes Sordo to Cork to help fend off Ford bid

World rally champion Sebastien Loeb heads the line for the Cork '20' International, final round of the Irish Tarmac championship at the end of the month.

The Citroen ace, champion for the past three years, is in danger of losing his crown to Ford's Marcus Gronholm and he's heading for Cork along with young Spanish team-mate Dani Sordo in an effort to gain a vital edge going into the penultimate round of the series, Rally Ireland, starting six weeks later on November 15.

But Ford will be in Cork, too, with young Finn Mikko Hirvonen coming to get his first taste of Irish conditions.

The three World stars head up a capacity Cork starting list released today which also includes reigning Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly who is battling with British champion Mark Higgins for the Irish title.

However, Gareth MacHale, making his first international appearance since a huge accident on the Italian round of the World championship in May destroyed his Ford Focus, is the highest seeded Irish driver at No.4.

Higgins starts at five with Donnelly at seven. Sandwiched between them is Ulster Rally winner Kris Meeke but there are doubts over whether he will start.

Any gaps in the starting list will be quickly filled from a 50-strong reserve list which includes triple Northern Ireland champion Kevin Lynch - and former Suzuki Junior World championship star Guy Wilks.

Wilks, now driving in the British championship for Mitsubishi and competing as a Ford privateer in the World championship, led the Cork event last year in a Subaru before crashing out.

Top of the entry list: 1 Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen C4); 2 Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Focus); 3 Dani Sordo and Marc Marti (Citroen Xsara); 4 Gareth McHale and Paul Nagle (Ford Focus); 5 Mark Higgins and Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza); 6 Kris Meeke and TBA (Subaru Impreza); 7 Eugene Donnelly and Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza); 8 Tim McNulty and Eugene O'Donnell (Subaru Impreza); 9 Eamonn Boland and Francis Regan (Subaru Impreza); 10 Austin McHale and Brian Murphy (Ford Focus); 11 Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield (Subaru Impreza); 12 Aaron McHale and Killian Duffy (Ford Focus); 14 Michael Barrable and Dermot O'Gorman (Ford Focus); 15 Stephen Murphy and Mickey Joe Morrissey (Subaru Impreza); 16 Patrick Elliott and Paul Goodman (Subaru Impreza); 17 Ray Breen and Damien Morrissey (Ford Focus); 18 Derek McGarrity and Diarmuid Falvey (Subaru Impreza); 19 Denis Cronin and Helen O'Sullivan (Subaru Impreza); 20 Denis Biggerstaff and Paul Magee (Subaru Impreza); 21 Stephen Moore and Greg Shinners (Ford Focus).

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