The entry list for the Rally Ireland, the opening round of the 2009 World Rally Championship, has been announced with a total of 43 runners, including 21 WRC specification drivers.

Following the withdrawal of Subaru and Suzuki over the off-season, there were fears this year's championship would see thin entry lists, particularly amongst the WRC competitors.

Nonetheless, Citroen and Ford - the two remaining manufacturer entries left in the championship - will enter 11 factory or semi-works cars between them, while local entrants will make up the remainder of the field.

Leading the way is reigning champion Sebastien Loeb, who will begin his quest for a sixth world title, and Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo, the pair looking to repeat their 1-2 result on the inaugural running of the event back in 2007.

Ford, meanwhile, will enter three factory prepared cars for Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Khalid Al-Qassimi.

The Rally Ireland also marks the debut outing for the newly formed Citroen Junior Team, which will enter a three-strong driver line-up in the shape of Subaru refugee Chris Atkinson, Junior World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier and Conrad Rautenbach.

Ford will also have their Stobart Motorsport 'B-team' out in force too, with Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg being joined by Urmo Aava, who switches from the privately run PH-Sport Citroen team.

Beyond the expected frontrunners, local interest will be maintained in the form of Stephen Murphy, Tim McNulty, Eamonn Boland and Welshman Gareth Jones, all driving Subaru Imprezas, while Michael Barrable, Ray Breen and three members of the McHale family - Austin, Gareth and Aaron - will drive Ford Focus'.

In addition, the event will also host the first round of the Junior World Rally Championship with a field of eight cars led by Aaron Burkart in his Suzuki Swift S1600. Martin Prokop will also be competing, driving a Citroen C2 S1600.