Kris Meeke has accepted his challenge to retain the IRC title is over but he is determined to feature prominently as the series heads to the Czech Republic this weekend.
He will have some home support as he will be joined by two other Irishmen -- both champions -- in Niall McShea (former Production world rally champion) and Keith Cronin (reigning British champion) who will pilot the works-supported Proton S2000 team. They will replace regular team members Alistair McRae and Chris Atkinson this weekend as the team continues with its development programme.
McShea impressed on his outing with the Proton when he was third fastest on the opening stage of Rally Ireland, thrashing a raft of world rally cars in the process.
"I've been testing and developing cars recently so I'm feeling pretty match-fit and ready to go," said the Fermanagh driver.
Cronin had little time to get used to the car as he concentrated on the Ulster event where he finished second to Craig Breen. "Obviously it's quite different to the Group N cars I've been driving in the British championship but it wont take me long to get to grips with it," he said.
He will face some tough competition from PJ McDermott in his Subaru WRC. Several other champions -- past and present -- feature on the entry list including past hillclimb champion Frank Byrnes and reigning Fiesta champion Stephen Wright.
Meanwhile, it is the battle for the GRP4 Fabrication King of the Mk2 crown that will attract most attention. It would be almost impossible to pick a winner from the quality 54-strong entry for the title which includes nearly all the top Mk 2 drivers in the country.
Among the front runners for the crown are Gary McPhilips, Manus Kelly, Mike Quinn, Camillus Bradley, Trevor Mulligan, Martin McGee, Russell Woods, Ed Synan and Raymond Drury.
Former Billy Coleman Award winner Ross Forde returns to the sport this time with an Evo9 alongside fellow Mitsubishi-mounted drivers Aidan Bourke, Jakes Kelly and Liam Higgins. They face a strong challenge from Subaru front runners Jer O'Donovan and Shane Maguire with two of the Neville family from Wexford -- Padraig and Anthony -- also in Subarus, while daughter Niamh will be in a Fiesta.
Galway MC deserves credit for attracting 150 entries for an event that does not carry national championship status.
He, along with Mike Edgar, has decided to concentrate on the final championship round which carries double points and McMullen is planning to contest the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy meeting in October. The support programme includes a Formula Libre double-header in which Michael Roche (Dallara) takes on local ace Ivor Greenwood in his Radical Sports machine, while Paul Sammin and Brian Kelly head the field in the visiting Formula Vee race.
Not only that but he showed astute marketing awareness in attracting the Borza Group of fish-and-chip shops as his title sponsor.
His triumph was all the more astounding as the youngster had never competed in any discipline in the sport until he registered for the Ginetta Junior Cup series this year. He has visited the podium in all four races that he has competed in to-date -- enough surely to be considered for the Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the Month award.
Another youngster with potential, Kevin O'Hara, shrugged off injuries he received at work to finish third in the Asian Formula Renault championship round at Shanghai.
The Co Kildare student missed the previous two rounds because of the shoulder and rib injuries he received in an accident at work.
Trials Drivers Club is organising a multi-venue autotest meeting at Burgage Blessington on Sunday while Carlow CC has condensed its championship autocross meeting to a one-day event at Seskin Leighlinbridge on Sunday. The Autocross committee has planned an Open Forum meeting at Doolys Hotel Birr on September 11.