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Home-based drivers only as Irish racing resumes



Top rank: Callum Devine is the highest Irish seed in Italy

Top rank: Callum Devine is the highest Irish seed in Italy

Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Top rank: Callum Devine is the highest Irish seed in Italy

Just as motorsport emerges from lockdown this weekend, competitors living outside the island of Ireland have been barred from taking part in events in the Republic.

The Motorsport Ireland decision comes on the eve of the first race meeting of the year at Mondello tomorrow and Sunday and is "effective immediately".

The MI statement reads: "All events will be restricted to competitors and service crew members who are resident on the island of Ireland, until further notice.

"Motorsport Ireland continues to work closely with Sport Ireland on the return of our sport for all disciplines where possible, while at all times respecting government guidelines."

But with travellers from the UK mainland not included in the Irish government's "green list" of countries exempt from a 14-day quarantine period, the MI decision is certain to prevent any competitors from venturing across the Irish Sea.

It does not affect Northern Ireland events where racing also resumes tomorrow at Kirkistown.

The Irish ban is unlikely to have any immediate impact but should it remain in place for some time it would deter cross-channel competitors who regularly form a substantial part of the entry list for the Wexford Rally, the event which is scheduled to get Irish rallying up and running again in September.

The restrictions are in sharp contrast to Italy where a small group of Irish drivers led by Craig Breen and Callum Devine have been warmly welcomed as they prepare to start the Ralli di Roma Capitale, the first round of a delayed European Championship.

Breen and Devine had always planned to contest the European series but following the abandonment of the major British and Irish Championships, they have been joined in the Italian line-up by Ulster drivers William Creighton, who was leading the BRC Junior series when it was called off, and Irish forestry champion Cathan McCourt as well as Monaghan's Pauric Duffy.

Devine, Ireland's International Driver of 2019, has been surprised to be listed at the sharp end of the entry and ahead of reigning Irish Tarmac champion Breen, soon to be back in the Hyundai squad for the start of the World Championship in Estonia.

"It was a surprise to be seeded at seven, in among the top ERC and Italian competitors, but I know it's not going to be an easy event. Still, after waiting this long to get back into action again, I can't wait to give it a go," said the 26-year-old former British Junior champion from Co Derry who drives a PCRS Hyundai R5 supported by the Motorsport Ireland Academy and Hyundai Customer Racing.

Breen, also in an R5 Hyundai run by the Italian BRC Racing team, is at No.9 despite twice being runner-up in the ERC series. But his primary role this year is as a development driver for the Indian MRF tyre company and he will be keen to measure their performance against the more established Pirelli and Michelin brands.

The Irish contingent face a formidable 90-strong field which is headed by last year's Rome winner Giandomenico Basso, a former European champion, and teenage sensation Oliver Solberg, who has an Ulster co-driver in Aaron Johnston.

The rally begins today with shakedown and the qualifying stage before it kicks off tomorrow morning.

Belfast Telegraph