by Geoff Mayes

The 2008 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship is all set for exciting times as two of the top teams, Mitsubishi and TEG Sport, engage in a spot of driver changes ahead of the final tarmac round of the current series.

While Mark Higgins may have made the headlines after winning the Rally Isle of Man outright, not just beating Guy Wilks, but trouncing Irish Tarmac champion elect Eamonn Boland in a World Car no less, the Mitsubishi team were quick to make the news again the following week.

Following another troubled performance on the Isle of Man, 2007 Mitsubishi Evo Challenge winner Phillip Morrow was unceremoniously sacked from the team and replaced, at least for Ulster, by former works driver Gwyndaf Evans.

Now, Gwyndaf has always gone well in Ulster and actually won the BRC section in 2006, but the Welshman has not competed since the end of last year and there are some questions about his ability to cope with the 'Wilks effect', which seems to have caused Morrow some problems.

Morrow, meanwhile, has not been sitting on the sidelines and, with the help of multiple former champion Mark Higgins, has concluded a deal to join the Atlas TEG Sport Rally Team with immediate effect

Morrow's lacklustre season so far has been attributed in part to him struggling to adapt to a left hand drive Mitsubishi and he should have no problems this weekend as he takes to the wheel of a Subaru Impreza with the steering wheel on the 'correct' side of the car.

While these two teams have been competing for headlines off the track some might have forgotten that none of the above drivers is actually leading the title race at present. This honour falls to 2004 champion David Higgins. Podiums every time out in his N14 Subaru have given him confidence and the Manxman is sure to push hard again when the flag drops this Friday in Armagh.

Stuart Jones will be hoping that a recent test has cured the gremlins that stymied his attack last time out and will be another to watch as he takes his MG Super 2000 Sport across to Ireland for the first time. The team has plenty of set up data available from running Roy White in Ireland all season long and so will hopefully be on the pace from the word go.

Other young guns chomping at the bit are James Wozencroft, doing a splendid job in his Revolution Wheels Rally Team-run Subaru Impreza N11 despite being on a tight budget, while both Darren Gass and Jonnie Greer have local knowledge on their sides and will be keen to push that advantage home. Gass, for one, actually lives along one of the stages!

Richard Cathcart, so disgusted by Mitsubishi's decision to drop Morrow, has reverted back to his Subaru and judging by his pace on the 2007 WRC Rally Ireland, he could spring a few surprises.

Brian O'Mahony returns in his Clio S1600, and while he does not face much of a challenge from similar cars - expect the Group N Clio of Adam Gould and the Puma of Luke Pinder to be not too far behind.

The Citroen C2R2 hot hatches will once again feature a selection of strong battles. Martin McCormack has endured a disastrous start to the season and will be hoping for a reversal of fortune on home territory.

After taking the class win on the Isle of Man, Jason Pritchard has finally gotten his title hopes back on track and will be hoping for another strong result while Andrew Hockridge is relishing his first trip to Ireland in the little pocket rocket.

However, don't discount the likeable Matt Cotton who could spring a surprise if things go his way.

The Suzuki Swift Cup always provides entertainment, even if it is because of Mark Gamble's exuberant driving style. Top seed this weekend is local lad Ross Forde and with the home advantage will be pushing hard. But 'on the limit' driving is all that Gamble, winner of the last two rounds, knows and therefore expect these two to become embroiled in a fierce battle. Both Niki Bjerg and Henry Catchpole have come along strongly and Gordon Nichol will want to bounce back from his early exit from the previous round.

So when the flag drops at mid-day on Friday August 22 expect the politics to be forgotten and the action to begin.

Regardless of who is driving what for which team all of these drivers will be on - and some even over - the limit, and who ever returns victorious after 160 action packed stage miles over some of the trickiest roads in Ireland will certainly deserve the winners champagne.