00:00 Saturday 07 January 2012  Written by Martin Walsh

McNulty will not defend title double

DOUBLE Irish rally champion, Tim McNulty, will compete in next month's Galway International Rally, the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Championship. However, his participation in the remaining round of the ITC, will depend on the quality of the opposition.

The Meath driver had already stated that he will not defend his Dunlop National Rally crown. Last season, he became the first driver to win both the Dunlop Championship and the Tarmac series in the same season. Meanwhile, Ovens driver, Owen Murphy, who won the 2011 Irish Forest Rally Championship, will make a defence of the title. The major championship dates for 2012 are as follows:

Valvoline Irish Forest Championship: January 28: Donegal Forestry Rally; March 3: Carrick-on-Suir Forestry Rally; April 15: Munster Moonraker Forestry Rally; May 19: Jim Walsh Cork Forestry Rally; June 30: SC Forestry Rally; August 4: Dogleap Forestry Rally; September 22: Omagh Forestry Rally.

Irish Tarmac Championship: February 5: Galway International Rally; April 6-7: Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally; May 5-6: Killarney International Rally of Lakes; June 15-17: Donegal International Rally; August 17-18: Ulster International Rally; September 29-30: Cork '20' International Rally.

Dunlop National Rally Championship: February 26: Birr Rally; March 11: Mayo Rally; April 1: Circuit of Kerry Rally; May 13: Carlow Rally; June 3: Limerick Circuit of Munster Rally; July 8: Tipperary Forestry Rally; August 12: Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally; September 16: Clare Rally; October 13: Donegal Harvest Rally.

MINI

Although there has been no official announcement from the MINI WRC team, it appears that Irish duo, Tyrone's Kris Meeke and his Killarney co-driver, Paul Nagle, will just have a testing role with the Banbury based outfit for 2012. The pair, who won the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, were set to compete in this season's World Rally Championship. However, they are not on the 89-strong entry list for the Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the series that takes place January 18-22 next.

Spaniard, Dani Sordo will drive the No 37 car while the No 52 car, that Meeke and Nagle campaigned last year, will be driven by Frenchman, Pierre Campana, who has paid to take the No. 52 entry in Monte Carlo. Indeed, it appears that that will be the scenario for the rest of the year with the drive reportedly costing the customer approximately €200,000 per event. It's a bitter blow for the Meeke/Nagle combination and indeed, the many Irish fans that were anticipating their presence, particularly in Monte Carlo.

Meeke, a former British Junior Champion, also contested the FIA junior series before his first major break saw him win the IRC in 2009 where he was partnered by Nagle. The pair took event wins in Brazil, Portugal, Belgium and San Remo. Although they defended their title, Skoda outgunned their Peugeot in most of the events in 2010.

Early last year, it looked as if the hard work had paid off as Meeke signed a three year contract. Sordo, who joined the team from Citroen, fared better in 2011, nevertheless, Meeke/Nagle, who had a string outing in Rally GB, could not have anticipated the happenings of the last few weeks that appear to be due to budgetary constraints. While Sordo's present contract ends this year, Meeke/Nagle are in the middle of a three year contract, so it remains to be seen what happens next.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen DS3) and his new team mate, Mikko Hirvonen head the entry for Monte Carlo Rally that features some fifteen World Rally Cars. Ford will be represented by Jari Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg (Norway), who will be co-driven by Antrim's Chris Patterson. Private Fiesta WRC entries include Matthew Wilson, Henning Solberg, Martin Prokop and Francois Delecour. Volkswagen, who will enter the WRC next season, have entered a pair of Skoda Fabia S2000s for Sebastien Ogier and Kevin Abbring.

Motorsport Ireland's International Driver of the Year, Waterford's Craig Breen will campaign his Fiesta S2000 as he starts his SWRC bid while Wexford's Eamonn Boland will compete in his Mitsubishi Evo X. The latter will also compete in Rally Sweden.

First to win

Michele Mouton, the first and only woman driver to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship and the present manager of the FIA World Rally Championship and President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, has been awarded the rank of Chevalier of the LÈgion d'Honneur by France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy. A winner of four World Championship rallies in the 1980s and vice-champion in 1982, Mouton, was honoured for her impressive career as a competitor and for her roles at the FIA and her organisation of the renowned Race of Champions.

The Cork Motorcycle Racing and Vintage Club are holding a Monster Motor Cycle Show on February 19th next at the Moran Silver Springs Hotel, Cork. Doors open from 11am until 6pm, enquiries to Derek Wilson on 086/2794224.

Meanwhile, organisers of the last year's Munster '100' Motor Cycle Road Races in Timoleague held their fundraising draw at Harrington's Inn, Timoleague, recently. Alan Goggin, Bandon, won the Suzuki GSX that was sponsored by JT Motor Cycles, Innishannon. The 2012 races at the Timoleague venue are scheduled to take place on the weekend of July 21/22. Fundraising for that event has now begun - it is estimated that the event will cost some €90,000.

Meanwhile, the Derek Sheils Supporters Club will host a fundraising evening in the White Lady, Kinsale on Saturday, February 26th.

Next week's issue of the Souithern Star will feature a review of the 2011 Motorsport Year.

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