With few new Covid restrictions on sport being introduced by the Stormont executive, the way has been cleared for the final two motorsport events of the year to go ahead next week.
And both the Maiden City Club’s Turkey Run Rally and the Ulster Automobile Club’s Not The Boxing Day Rally have attracted capacity entry lists.
The Turkey Run at the former Shackleton military base in Ballykelly will see the likes of Desi Henry, Derek McGarrity, reigning champion Aaron McLaughlin — who took the crown in 2019 ahead of last year's event being cancelled — and Derek McGeehan in action over five stages on December 29.
McGeehan fields his WRC Mini but most of the rest of the top 10, including Joe McGonigle, Cathan McCourt and Gareth Sayers, are all in R5 cars although Barry Morris is seeded sixth in his lightweight Darrian.
The traditional Boxing Day event is on December 27 and this year is not actually a rally at all.
Instead the UAC organisers have switched to a production car autotest at the Kirkistown race circuit. Naturally, it has attracted many of the best driving test exponents including Steven and Trevor Ferguson, Paul Mooney and Robert Dickson but also several familiar rally men like James Wilson, William Creighton and Robert Woodside.
British junior champion Creighton has been given a pre-Christmas boost by being selected for further support in 2022 from Motorsport Ireland’s Academy scheme.
For the second year in a row, MI’s Billy Coleman Award has been suspended because of the limited number of rallies in the past 12 months but six drivers, including Creighton, will benefit from a financial and technical support package.
Included in the list is another Ulster driver, Patrick O’Brien, winner of the Bushwhacker Rally. Others from the Republic of Ireland are Eamonn Kelly, David Kelly, Kyle McBride and Aoife Raffery.