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Donnelly looks set to take mini to the max

Kris Meeke is being forced to sit out the Monte Carlo Rally, but another Ulster driver is lining up an appearance in a Mini Countryman WRC this month.

One of the Prodrive-built cars is scheduled to arrive at the Draperstown workshop of McGeehan Motorsport next week and new owner Derek McGeehan is planning to put it through its paces for the first time in the New Year Stages Rally at Kirkistown on January 21.

The ex-Dani Sordo car is essentially for hire and McGeehan, a past winner of the New Year Stages and one of the country’s leading rally engineers, will assess it himself before it steps up to bigger, tougher events.

The Mini, the first to arrive in this country, is expected to be on the start-line for the opening round of the Irish Tarmac championship in Galway at the beginning of next month but McGeehan isn’t saying who will drive it.

Top of the pecking order is thought to be Eugene Donnelly.

McGeehan was the man behind Donnelly’s record-equalling five Tarmac championship successes and it was in a McGeehan Motorsport Toyota Corolla that he made his comeback on the Fastnet Rally at the end of last season after a two-year “sabbatical”.

The New Year Stages event, run by the 500 Club, is the traditional season opener and ex-Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity is likely to drive a Ford Focus.

Belfast Telegraph