In a challenge equivalent to a first time climb of a vertical face, the media duo of Tony Jardine and Maurice Hamilton will not only attempt the mighty Donegal International Rally for the first time, but they will make their debuts in the equivalent of a rocket ship - a full World Rally spec-car.

The Jardine / Hamilton combination will also benefit from another Anglo-Irish alliance on the rally, this time in the form of their Northern Irish VSM Motorsport team and York-based ProSpeedMotorsport, run by Olly Marshall.

Richard Hogg has bravely agreed to loan his Skoda Octavia WRC to the 'apprentice climbers' with support from his Mascott Construction and LGC precision engineering concerns. The team will be supplied with rally tyres by Kumho.

The Topaz Donegal International Rally is the jewel in the crown of Irish rallying, and has a reputation for being one of the country's most challenging rallies. So much so that four-time World Rally champion S?bastien Loeb competed in the event last year to familiarise himself with Irish rallying prior to Ireland's first ever round of the World Rally Championship.

Jardine was due to compete in Rally Ireland 2007, which would have been his first event in the Emerald Isle, but he had to make a dramatic dash back to the UK after his wife was seriously injured as a pedestrian caught up in a road accident. She has now happily recovered.

Now Jardine and co-driver Hamilton will make their Irish debuts after accepting the challenge to follow in Loeb's tyre tracks, set by the Donegal International team, including organiser Damion Crawford and clerk of the course Danny Gormley.

To add to the challenge, it will be the first time either of the duo will have competed in a WRC car. The rally car, a Skoda Octavia Evolution Three, was originally built by ProSpeed Motorsport and is currently prepared and run by VSM Motorsport.

In a unique link for this event the team will be supported by both ProSpeed, who have supported Jardine's Rally campaign for the last two years, and VSM, together with Kumho and Topaz who will supply fuel.

Richard Hogg, who owns the Skoda Octavia, commented: "Tony and Maurice are definitely in for a big shock as the WRC Skoda is a major step up from the production car they are used to. They will probably have to spend the Friday familiarising themselves with the car, then really go for it on the Saturday. After that they will just have to get the car home on the Sunday. We are really looking forward to seeing how they get on, and are hoping for a good result."

With so much support behind them the pressure will be mounting for Jardine and Hamilton to perform well on the stages.

"It has always been my goal to compete in Ireland, whilst similarly dreaming of driving a WRC car. Now the two have come together and, being completely honestly, I am scared," said Jardine. "Just thinking of the challenge gives me vertigo! The closest I have got up until now is driving a group N Subaru on Rallye Sunseeker three years ago, and that was quick enough!

"From its reputation, I know the Donegal Rally will be fast and tough. I have been watching the in- car footage of Loeb in last year's rally through my fingers. I covered my face in terror as he reached 130mph on the narrow slippery lanes. And with flat out stages like the famous Atlantic Drive, this event is not for the faint hearted."

"Tony and I will have to adapt to the Skoda very quickly as we won't be driving it properly until the event itself," added navigator Hamilton. "Compared to the cars we have experienced before this will be like a rocket ship - it has more technology than the F1 cars I write and talk about."


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