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GP Week : Issue 2
L ast year the twice British rally champion Mark Higgins was a front runner in the World Production Car championship, the British championship and the Irish Tarmac series. This year he is making Ireland his number one objective. After the first round of the 2008 Global Group Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (February's Galway) he is leading this iconic series. Now comes round 2, the Circuit of Ireland, this weekend. He spoke to MARTIN HOLMES GPWEEK: Why concentrate on Ireland this year? MARK HIGGINS: The Global Group Irish Tarmac championship has everything going for it this year. It was also the first commitment I had the chance to make and the sponsors were very keen, and I had the offer to continue with a Subaru. It also looks like we will be able to start the British championship in an MG Super 2000, and there is a possibility I might do some of the rounds in the Irish Tarmac series with an MG as well. I will use the same Subaru on the Circuit of Ireland as we had for Galway. What is special about Irish rallying? I think it is fantastic, the competition, the fascinating little lanes, the popularity of the sport. I know the Circuit (which does not admit all the older rally cars which are so popular in Ireland) is an exception, but generally you get hundreds of entries for each event. Thinking back to Galway, run in terrible weather, the spectators were great. Are the golden days of rallying in Ireland coming to an end? Certainly everyone is finding there is not so much money available in the sport in Ireland this year. The easing of the property boom in Ireland has a lot to do with it – in recent years a lot of the money in Irish rallying has come from people in the property business. There are still a lot of World Rally Cars there, maybe 25 or so on some events – more than you usually get on World Championship rallies! Without the reigning Irish Tarmac champion Donnelly, who is going to be your strongest rival this year? I suppose it will be Tim McNulty. Maybe Derek McGarrity will get back on form after his layoff when he broke his arm, and I am told that Gareth McHale will be coming back to do all the rallies again, so he will be going well. What has been the effect in Irish sport of the world championship Rally Ireland? It created a lot more interest from people who would not normally have been involved in rallying. It was a real high last year when people like Marcus Gronholm, Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen came and entered events like Galway, Donegal and Cork 20, all to get experience of Irish conditions in readiness for the world championship event at the end of the season. Rally Ireland has been very good for Irish sport. Which is your favourite event in Ireland? It has to be Donegal. Midsummer, a good atmosphere. I have only been down to Killarney once and liked the roads down there. There is not such a lot of difference 38