Welsh ace Evans heads up bumper Down list
Welshman Melvyn Evans, a former Irish national champion, heads a packed entry list for the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally, the first Northern Ireland event to be included in the Protyre UK Asphalt Championship.
Winner of the first round of the series, Evans will take on top UK contenders like Jason Pritchard and former British champion David Bogie as well as a raft of leading Ulster drivers including Desi Henry, Jonny Greer, Derek McGarrity, Peadar Hurson and Kenny McKinstry.
Jointly run by the Ballynahinch and Rathfriland clubs and scheduled for July 21, it will be based at the Eikon Centre, Sprucefield, with the crews facing 100 miles of tarmac stages in Co Down. It will also be round four of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Championship which is currently being led by McGarrity.
Evans is a frequent visitor to Irish events and won the national title in 2010 but he is also a renowned rally car preparation specialist and has provided the Subaru Impreza which has carried Manus Kelly to his hat-trick of Donegal International wins.
He won the Tour of Epynt in the Subaru but will switch to a WRC Ford Fiesta for the trip to Ulster and lines up ahead of the similar car of Pritchard who won the Manx National Rally.
Bogie and Henry are seeded four and five in their R5 Skoda Fabias with Greer, the reigning NI Champion, at six in his R5 Fiesta. McGarrity, Hurson and McKinstry are all in WRC cars with Wayne Sisson, the current leader of the UK series, starting at No 9 in his Mitsubishi Evo X.
The list, which has been extended to 130 to accommodate the demand for entries, also includes Merion Evans, son of Melvin, and William Creighton, leading contenders in the British Junior Championship.
Marty McCormack, one of Ulster's front runners in the BRC series, is taking part, too, but will drive his Ford Escort rather than his championship R5 Skoda.
The McCormack team will also field their S2000 Skoda for young Beragh driver Amy Cox who will face female opposition from a returning Emma McKinstry in a sister S14 Subaru to her father Kenny.
One driver is travelling over from France to take part and another one from Jersey.
Meanwhile, Sunday's postponed round of the Triton Showers Irish National Championship, the Sligo Rally, has been re-arranged for Sunday, July 15.
Extraordinarily, it was called off because the current hot weather has melted the tar on a number of the roads that were to be used during the event.