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Circuit of Ireland Rally - 18-19 Apr 14

Posted: April 19, 2014 9:05 AM - 40400 Hits

Counting Round - 2014 European Rally Championship (ERC)
Round 2 - 2014 Tarmac Rally Championship
Round 2 - 2014 Northern Ireland Rally Championship

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Event Website: Circuit of Ireland

First stage each day (Times are Ireland/UK)
Practice - Thu - 10:30
Qualifying - Fri 14:03 Updated
SS1 - Fri - 09:13
SS11 - Sun - 08:33

Video Clips Day 1

Posted: April 19, 2014 9:05 AM

Video: Qualifying / Shakedown

Posted: April 17, 2014 7:30 PM

AN EASTER FIRST FOR NEIL SIMPSON, AS HE MAKES HIS CIRCUIT OF IRELAND DEBUT IN HIS ŠKODA FABIA S2000

Posted: April 16, 2014 8:59 AM

Easter will be full of firsts for returnee rally driver Neil Simpson, as he makes his Circuit of Ireland debut in his ex-factory Simpsons ŠKODA Fabia S2000.

Co-driven by Claire Mole, Neil will head to the fast and bumpy closed Irish Tarmac lanes to compete against the top European teams and drivers – including the works ŠKODA Motorsport team, with Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand driving a pair of Fabia S2000s.

This will only be Neil’s third rally in his ex-ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000, and as a privateer will be competing for position with the non-factory teams. His return to competition this year after a 12 year sabbatical has been spectacular; the 41-year old dealer principal from Clitheroe in Lancashire has won the Super 2000 class on his debut at both the North West Stages and Rallye Le Touquet.

Despite a hugely successful previous rallying career, which was put on hold at the end of 2001 to allow Neil to develop the now thriving Simpsons ŠKODA business, he has never contested the Circuit of Ireland before – although he has worked on the event twice, doing gravel notes for former British Rally Champion Mark Higgins and Irish driver Brendan Kelly.

Neil said:
“I’ve never contested the Circuit of Ireland before, so in addition to looking forward to doing such a famous rally for the first time, I’m also really looking forward to competing in a round of the European Rally Championship and against the very best Super 2000 and R5 cars and drivers. The ŠKODA Fabia S2000 was built for the ERC, so having been out of rallying for twelve years, it will be great to match myself against the very best non-factory European teams. I’m not going to pretend I’ll be anywhere near the pace of the factory teams like ŠKODA Motorsport, although I’d like to think we’ll be able to hold our own against the non-works ERC regulars.

“The key to a successful run on the Circuit of Ireland will be a good pre-event test and recce. We’re going to be using the brand new Pirelli RX tyre for the first time, and we’ll test three different compounds on a road near Dungannon. Then it will be straight into the recce and the three-day event itself, so it’s going to be a very busy week.

“As so much will be new to us, they’ll be no heroics at the start of the Circuit of Ireland. Our tactic of starting fairly steadily and increasing our pace has worked well on our two previous rallies this year, so we’ll aim to do the same next weekend.”

This year’s Circuit of Ireland is based at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and begins with a Qualifying stage on Thursday 17 April, followed by the ceremonial start in Belfast at 19.00. A tough 13 hour day follows, with 10 stages totalling 70.4 miles (113.3kms) – including the new Ards TT Town Centre Special Stage, taking in Conway Square and surrounding roads in Newtownards, and a refuel stop in Ballynahinch Rugby Club. The final day on Saturday 19 April contains a further eight stages totalling 72.77 miles (117.12kms) – including two runs over Bronte Homeland which, at 18.05 miles (29.06kms), is the longest stage of the rally. There is also a pair of spectator stages in Lisburn and refuelling in Banbridge. The rally finishes after 18 stages and 143.17 miles (230.42kms) of flat-out competition at 18.00.

Craig all set for the Circuit

Posted: April 15, 2014 3:14 PM

“What an honour to be running No.1 for the Circuit of Ireland.” That’s what Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen tweeted on evening that the seeded entry list for the fourth round of the FIA European Rally Championship 2014, The Circuit of Ireland Rally (17th – 19th of April) was released.

There can be no greater sense of achievement than to follow your rallying dreams and in the process come home one day to compete as the ERC championship leader in a works car, in a works team and be the favourite to win. That's what the 2009 winner of the “Motorsport Ireland / Irish Sports Council” young Driver of the Year (The Billy Coleman Award) Craig Breen will do next weekend. The vote of confidence then and the support from both bodies since will see Craig return to his iconic ERC home event five years later not only as a Peugeot works driver but on top form fresh from his debut ERC win at the last round of the Championship the “Acropolis Rally” in Greece where he also gave the all new Peugeot 208T16 its debut win. As normal on the ERC Craig along with his co-driver Scott Martin will begin their assault on the Northern Ireland lanes beginning on Thursday with a 4.1km Qualifying stage which is based at Ballycultra Village in the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, where the fastest driver in Qualifying will earn the right to select their starting position for Friday’s opening leg first followed by the second fastest driver and so on. The selections will be made as part of the ceremonial start event outside Belfast City Hall later on that evening before the cars return to the Titanic Quarter for overnight parc ferme making it a real showcase event for the “Discover Northern Ireland” backed rally. Leg 1 is made up of ten stages in total book-ended by relatively short stages, a 6.9km opener and a 2.3 km Newtownards TT stage that takes in part of the famous Ards Tourist Trophy Circuit. During the day the crews will compete on well-known stages such as Hamilton’s Folly with a mid-loop service back at the Titanic Quarter and a service there again before checking into parc ferme for the night.

Day two (Saturday) consists of a only eight stages but the Bronte Homeland test measuring almost 30km in length will make it a big challenge for the drivers , the stage run twice is the longest of the rally and will link the towns of Banbridge and Rathfriland. Another highlight will be the purpose-built stage through the streets of Lisburn, also used twice but in quick succession it proved instrumental in the outcome of the 2012 Circuit when it was last used.

Without doubt Craig’s main rival for championship points on the rally will be Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi who currently only lies four points behind him in the standings but for the rally victory he will face some tough opposition from his fellow Peugeot Rally Academy team mate Kevin Abbring who was leading in Greece until a stone punctured the radiator of his 208T16 and forced his retirement.

Posted: April 15, 2014 3:14 PM

ERC/ IRELANDE: THE 208T16 TARGETING CIRCUIT SUCCESS

Posted: April 15, 2014 3:10 PM

With a score of two podium finishes from two starts to his name this year, including victory in Greece with the brand new 208T16, the Peugeot Rally Academy’s Craig Breen will be in Northern Ireland this weekend for the next round of the European Rally Championship. Despite stiff opposition, the Irishman is looking for another top finish.

The Circuit of Ireland: a unique challenge

Peugeot Rally Academy’s duo for this all-asphalt fixture are perfectly aware of the potential pitfalls that Northern Ireland’s fast and narrow roads near Belfast can to throw at them. Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring will both drive 208 T16s on the bumpy, tree- and bush-lined stages which twist their way between earth banks. Fickle, cold, rainy weather is frequently an added difficulty.

The specialists know that this event’s wide variety of surface types (dust, dirt, mud, low grip, patchy asphalt) makes it a particularly tough challenge for the teams’ technical staff and crews, but it also invariably delivers great spectator value!

Craig Breen in the 208 T16

Craig Breen’s first major victory recently in Greece was a maiden win not only for the Peugeot Rally Academy but also for the Peugeot 208 T16!

The Waterford-based winner of two world rally championships (the WRC Academy and the S-WRC titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively, plus third place in the 2013 European Rally Championship) will benefit from a certain degree of local knowledge.

Since taking part in a regional rally last weekend, Craig Breen and Peugeot Sport’s development team have been busy working through the data they collected in order to optimise the set-up of the 208 T16 ahead of the ERC qualifier which starts on April 18.

Kevin Abbring: fast and efficient

Kevin Abbring’s prize for winning last year’s 208 Rally Cup France was a six-round programme with the 208T16 in the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship.

His debut in the Euro series demonstrated his front-running ability and, although he tends to favour loose stages, he has already shown his skills on sealed surfaces. He is a quick learner, too, as he showed at the end of March in Greece where he topped the leaderboard before being side-lined by a holed radiator.

Paired with co-driver Sebastian Marshall, the Dutchman stands out as another potential winner in Northern Ireland.

Driver quotes:

Craig Breen:
“I’m looking forward to contesting the Circuit of Ireland with Peugeot Sport and the Peugeot Rally Academy. This will be my fourth attempt at this event but most of the stages are new to me so I will need to learn them like everybody else. There are some extremely wide and fast sections, as well as narrower and slower portions, not to mention the bumps which are a unique feature of this rally. We have prepared as thoroughly as possible and we will see how it goes. Coming here is very important for me because I used to follow the Circuit of Ireland as a spectator when I was a kid. To win would be a dream come true.”

Kevin Abbring:
“I am still very focused on familiarising myself with the car and on all the other parameters that can influence how competitive we are in Northern Ireland. We scored four fastest times in Greece but we also improved with every stage and we’ve got a lot of data now. I still obviously lack experience but I had a very good feeling on the Acropolis Rally. I don’t intend to change my approach for the Circuit of Ireland and I will do my best to adapt to the event’s highly specific stages. I have also been working on the way I take notes during recce. Sebastian and I had a chance of winning in Greece and, once you’ve had that sensation, you want it to continue. I hope to be at least as competitive this weekend. Craig will be the perfect benchmark but it won’t be easy to make beat him. We will also need to see how strong the opposition is. I can’t wait!”

Daniel McKenna To Debut DS3 On The Circuit Of Ireland

Posted: April 15, 2014 2:55 PM

2014 Pirelli Star Driver Daniel McKenna and co-driver Arthur Kierans will make their long awaited competitive debut in the David Greer Motorsport Citroen DS3 R3T this weekend on the Circuit of Ireland Rally. In a departure from the usual black colour scheme, the Pirelli prize drive car will also sport a new, eye catching yellow colour scheme for the upcoming season.

It will be an event of firsts for Daniel. It will be his first competitive drive in the Citroen, his first time tackling the Circuit of Ireland, his first taste of the European Rally Championship and it will also be the first time Pirelli’s 17 inch WRC tyre will be used in competition. It’s a lot to take on board but Daniel is looking forward to the challenge that awaits.

“Yes it’s a weekend of firsts but as a driver that’s what you want. It will be a great learning experience and I really can’t wait to get going in the Citroen on the new Pirelli tyres. The sooner I get a feel for the car and the tyres, the more confidence I’ll have going on to my British Championship campaign which is my focus for the year ahead. We plan to test the car ahead of the rally and Arthur and myself have put in a lot of preparation work for the Circuit. We have brought a few new sponsors on board and without them, this weekend would not have been possible.”

After a ceremonial start on Thursday evening at Belfast City Hall the action on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland will start on Friday morning. Over Friday and Saturday the crews will cover 18 stages before they arrive back at the Belfast finish ramp on Saturday evening.

You can follow Daniel’s progress this year by following him on Twitter @DMKMotorsport and by checking out his all new website, www.danielmckenna.net

Pre Event Test Photos

Posted: April 15, 2014 2:10 PM






Donagh Kelly Focuses on Easter Classic!

Posted: April 15, 2014 2:04 PM

Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan are focusing their preparations for the Circuit of Ireland Rally this weekend, with their Northgate Vehicle Hire supported Ford Focus WRC.

The team have begun their Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship campaign, with third place on the Galway International Rally in February, and “The Circuit” is the second round of this most prestigious rally series in Ireland. Indeed it’s a special Circuit, with the best in the European Championship heading the field, with the Tarmac Championship stars next up, tackling the same eighteen stages, and it all starts at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast on Good Friday.

This is no easy rally as Donagh and Kevin found out at the weekend when they made their pace-notes on the recce. “It’s a long rally” comments Donagh.
“On day one there are five stages with no service, and on the day two there is a loop of three tests, which includes an 18 miler! The stages are a real mixture of fast flowing bits, and then tighter, slower sections. They are good stages, but definitely will be tricky if it was to rain, and we have to keep an eye on the mud and gravel pulled out by the ERC guys ahead of us. It’s also a matter of keeping your concentration and rhythm going continually especially on that long 18 mile test.”

Certainly this could be the toughest test of the season, and the line-up includes Galway winner Declan Boyle, reigning Irish Tarmac Champion Garry Jennings, and five times champion Eugene Donnelly, who non-scored in Galway.
“There is no doubt that you can’t afford to play the waiting game these days. Declan, Garry, Eugene and the rest will be on a good pace from the start. Hopefully we can apply the pace we were on in West Cork on this event, and if we could do that we should be closer at least.”

Donagh has conducted a short test in the VSM run Ford Focus WRC, and all is well, as the Pirelli shod car lines up at number three in the National event, in what promises to be one the most exciting Circuit of Ireland rallies in recent memory.

Three action packed days ahead for Circuit of Ireland fans

Posted: April 15, 2014 1:51 PM

Final preparations are underway for this year’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally, which covers Counties Down and Antrim and will include a ceremonial start and finish in Belfast.

A carnival atmosphere will descend on Belfast City Hall on Thursday afternoon from 5pm with drummers and Irish dancers performing at a public event ahead of around 120 competitors assembling for the ceremonial start from 6pm and the Lord Mayor flagging off the first car at 7pm.

Fourteen nations will be represented when the world-famous event, round four of the FIA European Rally Championship, gets underway and the first driver off the ramp will be Craig Breen, one of Ireland’s top international rally drivers.

Esapekka Lappi, a factory driver for Skoda Motorsport and a former Finnish champion, is the second seed with Breen’s Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring next up.

Earlier in the day spectators can catch the Qualifying Stage of the rally at Ballycultra Village at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum from around 12.45pm with the assembly of FIA, ERC and Junior Championship competitors.

The stages take place on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, when there are numerous opportunities for fans to get close up to their heroes. At 9am on Friday the drivers will be starting in Newtownards, heading onto Downpatrick for a regroup after 3pm and back to Ards for the TT stage at 7pm.

On Saturday there will be a street stage in Lagan Valley Island in Lisburn around 11.30am while there will be regroups at Hillsborough Castle around 11am and Banbridge at 3.30pm.

Drivers will make numerous visits to the service park in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter throughout the weekend and it will be open to the public. The first car is expected back at Titanic just before 5.30 on Saturday, followed immediately by the podium finish.

Rally Director Bobby Willis, said: “This year’s rally has attracted a bumper entry with 37 crews signed up for the international section and a further 84 chasing honours in the national contest.

“Broadcast by Eurosport, it’s expected to attract 10 million viewers across the world, while it’s also great news for the local economy as over £1 million will be generated through the event.

“We’re gearing up for an exciting few days across counties Down and Antrim and we look forward to seeing both new and established rally fans supporting the event. We especially look forward to seeing fans at Belfast City Hall on Friday afternoon and at the Titanic Service Park throughout the two competition days.

“As always we would encourage everyone to pay attention to safety information from the marshals to ensure the event is safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

Meanwhile 15 HND Film and Television students from South Eastern Regional College’s Ballynahinch and Bangor Campuses will be filming footage of the rally to be broadcast live. The Newtownards TT stage and the Lisburn Power stage can be viewed on Friday from 7 to 9.30pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm at circuitofireland.tv and at www.circuitofireland.net

Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship - All to play for on the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: April 11, 2014 11:30 AM

The second Round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship sees the action head north of the border to the Circuit of Ireland Rally. The Circuit which is one of the oldest events in Europe takes place on its traditional Easter date and runs from the 17th to the 19th April. As expected most of the championship protagonists are making an appearance and it promises to be a fascinating event which should give us a clearer picture of where the championship honours will head this year. Most of the championship runners are in the National section, while the Moffett brothers have chosen to run in the International (ERC) part of the event in their Fiesta RRC and Mitsubishi Lancer respectively and are currently fourth and fifth in the overall standings.

Top seed for the national event is the 2013 Tarmac Champion Garry Jennings in his Subaru Impreza WRC who will be hoping to go one better than his second overall in Galway. Jennings is one of many of the challengers who have never won the event and should be on the pace from the word go despite not having been out since Galway. The same cannot be said for the next two seeds, as Donegal men Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly have both topped the podium in recent weeks. Boyle leads the championship after winning in Galway and has also won the opening two rounds of the National Championship so he is bang on form and will be one of the pre event favourites. Donagh Kelly has yet to win a Tarmac Championship round, but having been so impressive in winning the West Cork Rally at his first attempt in March and with a car that’s now performing more to his liking, he could be one to watch this Easter.

Eugene Donnelly is a twice Circuit of Ireland winner and although he failed to finish in Galway after crashing his Mini WRC on the second day, he is vastly experience and is expected to go well. Derek McGarrity along with Paddy Hopkirk is the only Irish driver to win the event five times and in a potent Mini WRC could be primed to make it a sixth win. Steve Simpson who was going well before clutch failure put him out in Galway is also on the entry list as he looks to gain more Tarmac Championship experience.

The Modified Championship heads into round three after Galway and West Cork and this category is also being led by a Donegal crew, Declan Gallagher & Ryan Moore in their Toyota Starlet. Two superb performances on the opening rounds have given them maximum points to date and an eight point lead in the championship. Wesley Patterson & Johnny Baird are next up following a second and a third so far to lie second, while Frank Kelly who retired on his first event in West Cork will be comforted by the knowledge that he was very close to Gallagher’s pace in Clonakilty as he got used to a brand new car. Historic Championship leader Ray Cunningham is not down to do the event so third placed Denis Moynihan has a chance to move into the championship lead before the action switches to his home event in Killarney in three weeks’ time.

The action takes place from the 17th to the 19th April and takes in stages in areas such as Newtownards, Ballygowan, Downpatrick, Dromore, Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Moira. Remember you can keep up to date on the official website (www.irishtarmac.com), Facebook (Irish Tarmac Championship), Twitter (@IrishTarmacTROA) or through the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship app which is available for download for iOS and Android.

Barrable promises to “push hard” for a top result against Europe’s best on Circuit of Ireland

Posted: April 11, 2014 11:14 AM

Robert Barrable has promised he is “going to push hard – we won’t be driving just for a finish” when he contests his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Circuit of Ireland (April 17-19), in his unmistakeable Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

The 26-year old Dublin driver was the first to place an entry to secure a place in the starting line up, which sees Europe’s top rally teams and drivers compete against the Irish elite.

A recent Tarmac test outing on the West Cork Rally didn’t go to plan, with a misfire and early retirement, but Robert will head to Belfast next week match fit, having just finished the gruelling Rally Portugal. The Tunnock’s Fiesta R5 left Faro immediately after the finish on Sunday and arrived back at CA1 Sport in Carlisle on Tuesday night, where it was converted from gravel to Tarmac specification in preparation for a pre-event test in Ireland next Monday.

The Circuit of Ireland was the second rally Robert ever did in his career, contesting the 2009 event in a Fiesta ST. He returned the following year in a Citroën C2 R2, but it wasn’t until his third attempt in 2012 that he recorded his first finish – coming home 6th in the IRC (8th overall) in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000.

His co-driver Stuart Loudon has only been to two Irish rallies – finishing 7th in class (23rd overall) with John MacCrone on the 2010 Ulster International Rally in a Fiesta R2, and as a spectator on the 2011 Donegal Rally!

The Circuit of Ireland has received a great entry, with Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand driving a pair of ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000s and Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring in two Peugeot 208T16s starting ahead of number five seed Robert.

Robert: “This year’s Circuit of Ireland is going to be fantastic – a challenging event with a lot of tough ERC and Irish competition, and it will be very interesting to see how the new Peugeot 208T16 compares to the Fiesta R5 and Fabia S2000s. And for those reasons, it’s hard to predict what our pace is going to be like until we get to the Qualifying Stage. But one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a very tough rally.

“Even though they’re relatively close to home, I don’t know the stages so well. I might have done one or two of them back in 2009; Hamilton’s Folly stands out and I’ve definitely done the stage near Banbridge and the Lisburn spectator stage. I’m sure Bobby Willis [event director] has picked some really good and very challenging stages. There are some very nice rally roads in that area – not so narrow and bumpy, but fast and flowing.

“I’m really excited to be doing such a high-class ERC event an hour and a half drive away from where I live in Swords, and I hope the fans come out in force to support us and enjoy the event. We’re going to push hard – we won’t be driving just for a finish, we’ll be aiming for a good result.”

Stuart: “I’m looking forward to the Circuit of Ireland, because it’s a different challenge for me. Having rallied in a lot of different Tarmac areas in Europe, I’ve not really got any experience of rallying on Tarmac in Ireland, but I’ve heard so much about it. Being so close to home, you always hear so much about the Irish Tarmac Championship events being so good and very competitive, so I’m sure this will be no different. Rob and I are both match fit coming straight from Rally Portugal, and if the car works well we should be on for a good result in Ireland.”

This year’s Circuit of Ireland is based at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and begins with a Qualifying stage on Thursday 17 April, followed by the ceremonial start in Belfast at 19.00. A tough 13 hour day follows, with 10 stages totalling 70.4 miles (113.3kms) – including the new Ards TT Town Centre Special Stage, taking in Conway Square and surrounding roads in Newtownards, and a refuel stop in Ballynahinch Rugby Club. The final day on Saturday 19 April contains a further eight stages totalling 72.77 miles (117.12kms) – including two runs over Bronte Homeland which, at 18.05 miles (29.06kms), is the longest stage of the rally. There is also a pair of spectator stage in Lisburn and refuelling in Banbridge. The rally finishes after 18 stages and 143.17 miles (230.42kms) of flat-out competition at 18.00.

Busy April Ahead For Wright Rally Team

Posted: April 11, 2014 11:12 AM

The Wright Rally team are about to enter the busiest month of their 2014 campaign which will see Stephen and Susanne take on 3 rallies in as many weekends. This weekend sees the pair and their Peugeot 208 R2 head to Belgium for the latest round of the BFO Belgian Rally Championship when they tackle the TAC Rally which is a counting round of the 208 Rally Trophy. After Belgium, it’s back to home soil for the Circuit of Ireland Rally, which takes place over the Easter weekend. With European Championship status this year, the Circuit has attracted a healthy R2 entry and Stephen and Susanne are seeded right in the heat of the battle at number 20 surrounded by Italian, Polish, Dutch, Czech and Norwegian crews. With the Circuit done and dusted the siblings then head back to Belgium for the next round of the 208 Rally Trophy on the Rallye de Wallonie, a tough 3 day, 21 stage event.

It’s going to be a very busy 21 days with rallies, recces and ferries but it is a challenge that Stephen is looking forward to. “It’ll be a busy month but we can’t wait to get started. Being honest, it will be a challenge in itself to even make the start line of the 3 events but we’ll drive with that in mind and hopefully we’ll be in the mix for some good results in very competitive fields. To test our speed against European Championship regulars on the Circuit will be a real bonus.”

You can follow Stephen and Susanne on Twitter @StephenWr1ght and @SusanneWright15 and more information on the Wright Rally Team by is available by visiting www.wrightrally.com. Stephen is the current Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver of the Year and is supported by the Killyhevlin Hotel and Health Club, Spanwright and The Irish Sports Council.

FIA ERC 2014 event preview: Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: April 11, 2014 11:07 AM

ERC young stars set for voyage of discovery on Tarmac showcase

Some of international rallying’s most promising young drivers will head to Northern Ireland next week for one of the oldest rallies in the world.

The Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally, which was first run in 1931, forms round four of the all-action FIA European Rally Championship and the second event of the exciting new-for-2014 ERC Junior Championship.

Based in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter from 17-19 April, the event uses all-asphalt stages on closed roads through stunning countryside and bustling town centres. While some stages feature narrow and bumpy sections, the bulk of this year’s revamped route uses wide and smooth roads, albeit no less challenging for the drivers and co-drivers.

Following the Qualifying Stage at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Ceremonial Start outside Belfast City Hall on Thursday 17 April, the action proper begins when the first of 18 special stages gets underway at 09:13hrs local time on Good Friday 18 April.

The day’s itinerary features a total of 10 timed tests including the Newtownards TT stage, which takes in part of the famous Ards Tourist Trophy Circuit where legends such as Tazio Nuvolari and Rudi Caracciola raced in the 1920s and ’30s.

Day two (Saturday 18 April) consists of a further eight stages, including the 29.02-kilometre Bronte Homeland test, which runs through the area where Patrick Bronte, the father of celebrated novelists Emily, Charlotte and Anne, grew up. Another highlight will be the purpose-built stage through the streets of Lisburn, which is used twice in quick succession. It proved decisive in the outcome of the 2012 Circuit when Andreas Mikkelsen momentarily knocked himself out when he crashed while battling Juho Hänninen for the lead.

With the Easter holidays in full swing during Circuit of Ireland week, thousands of spectators are expected to watch the battle for ERC glory unfold and many fans will flock to service halts at the Titanic Quarter, where the passenger ship was constructed more than 100 years ago, plus the regroups in Banbridge and Downpatrick, the resting place of Saint Patrick. The podium finish will start at 17:28hrs on Saturday 18 April at the Titanic Quarter.

ERC Juniors out in force in Northern Ireland

Following the thrilling inaugural event on the ice and snow of Latvia in early February, the ERC Junior Championship switches to asphalt for round two.

Eight of the 19 registered drivers have selected the Circuit of Ireland as one of their four scoring events with current title leader Jan ?erný heading the entry in his Peugeot 208 R2, followed by Norway’s Petter Kristiansen (ŠKODA Fabia R2) and Andrea Crugnola from Italy in another 208. It’s been a busy period for Czech driver ?erný. As well as a test on Tarmac, the 24-year-old tackled Portugal’s round of the world championship and also made a guest appearance on Ó?ko, his country’s version of MTV.

London-born Pole Aleks Zawada (208), British teenager Chris Ingram (Renault Twingo), Motorsport Ireland’s Young Rally Driver of the Year Stephen Wright (208), English university student Alex Parpottas (Ford Fiesta R2) and Belgian Gino Bux (208) complete the list. Dutchman Kevin van Deijne was due to take part but he’s been unable to ready his Fiesta in time. Meanwhile, Wright, Parpottas and Bux are all making their first appearances in ERC Junior in Northern Ireland.

Bux, for whom the Circuit will be only his fourth ever rally, won a scholarship from his country’s motorsport federation to contest five rounds of the ERC in 2014. The RACB also helped to launch current WRC star Thierry Neuville’s early career. To take part, drivers must be born on or after 1 January 1989 and use an R2-specification car and Michelin tyres.

Friendly ERC rivalry at Peugeot Rally Academy

Craig Breen, the 24-year-old Irish sensation, tops the entry in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16, which he drove to his maiden ERC victory and the first in the championship for the new-generation car on last month’s Acropolis Rally in Greece. Victory on home soil is the ultimate goal for the European championship pacesetter but he’ll face strong opposition from close friend and team-mate Kevin Abbring, who was leading in Greece until a technical problem forced his retirement.

Youth and experience for ŠKODA in the ERC

After claiming a dominant 1-2-3 finish when the Circuit of Ireland last ran in 2012, ŠKODA Motorsport will rely on its two young guns Esapekka Lappi from Finland and Germany’s Sepp Wiegand. Lappi is already a three-time winner in the ERC, while Wiegand switched to rallying from motocross three years ago and continues to impress. British veteran Neil Simpson, a former works driver, will pilot an ex-factory Fabia S2000 on his first season back in competition after a 12-year sabbatical.

Barrable is back

Dubliner Robert Barrable was determined not to miss out on a fourth Circuit of Ireland appearance, so much so that he was the first to enter the event. The ex-circuit racer is taking a break from his World Rally Championship commitments to drive his Tunnock’s Ford Fiesta R5 in Northern Ireland and should be in the fight for the podium places. Irishman Sam Moffett could also be in the thick of the podium battle in his Fiesta RRC, while Frenchman Robert Consani has previous Circuit experience to call on and cannot be discounted in his Peugeot 207 S2000. László Vizin will also be driving a 207 on his first ERC appearance of 2014.

Serious competition ahead in the ERC support categories

In addition to the chase for overall success on the Circuit, the ERC Production Car Cup and ERC 2WD Championship have both attracted strong entries. Josh Moffett, younger brother of Sam, Aaron MacHale, the son of former winner Austin, and Robert Woodside are three to watch out for. The ERC 2WD category includes the eight ERC Juniors, reigning champion Zoltán Bessenyey (Honda Civic Type R), current British title holder Jukka Korhonen from Finland and Pirelli UK Star Driver Andrew McKenna. Portuguese ERC regular Renato Pita and former British championship frontrunner Jonny Greer will also be in contention.

ERC aces gun for Qualifying best

Following two runs of Free Practice from 10:30hrs local time on Thursday 17 April, nine priority drivers will face off in Qualifying for the right to select their starting position first for leg one. While the running order is less significant on Tarmac as it is on gravel, the preference is to avoid starting at the head of the pack or taking to the stages further down the field due to the practice of ‘cutting’ corners, resulting in gravel and other debris being dragged onto the road. The fastest driver in Qualifying will earn the right to select their starting position first, followed by the next quickest driver and so on until all priority drivers have chosen.

Q&A: CRAIG BREEN

The 24-year-old Waterford hero is finally a winner in the FIA European Rally Championship following his maiden success in Greece last month. And the Irishman is targeting a repeat win this time on home soil in Peugeot’s all-new 208T16.

How will you prepare for the Circuit of Ireland Rally?
“We have a test near Monaghan on Monday so I’ll be heading up there on Sunday night to prepare and be in the best possible frame of mind. After the test the week will unfold like normal but now I’m trying to treat it like any other rally, just like I did on the Acropolis. That will mean going back over the tests, looking at all the set-up sheets, see what we’ve changed and just try to pick out some interesting points that we can try on Monday’s test.”

Do you feel winning the Acropolis has lifted the weight off your shoulders?
“I tried so hard last year to get a victory. If I hadn’t won the Acropolis and if all eyes were on me to try to get my first victory on the Circuit, then it would have been a whole lot more difficult. But getting one under my belt I’m feeling more relaxed knowing I have both the speed and consistency you need. But I’d do anything to win this rally.”

Your outing on the Circuit of Kerry last week didn’t go entirely to plan when you went off the road, but was it still a useful exercise?
“Our test was fantastic, definitely the upside of the week. We’d driven on the best road I’d ever seen in my life. Everything went perfectly in the test but in the rally it was a simple mistake. We just got stuck but we’d probably learned everything we needed to learn by the time we finished the test, although I was a little bit embarrassed.”

So what about the battle for victory on the Circuit – will it be another close fight?
“I’d love to think I’ll be able to run away with it but I know it’s going to be a tough fight. Kevin Abbring, my team-mate, was leading in Greece on Tarmac and will definitely be a thorn in my side. Then you’ve got Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand from ŠKODA. The last time the Circuit ran there was a big fight at the front and when you’re pushing at ten-tenths on narrow, bumpy lanes with big jumps you can only look forward to it.”

What can first-time visitors to Northern Ireland expect when they arrive for the rally?
“We’re a rally-made country. Okay, we’re going through a financial crisis, but Ireland in the boom had more World Rally Cars than anywhere else in the world, which speaks volumes for such a small place. We’re very proud of our roads and the Circuit takes up a massive chunk of history in our country and people from all over come to watch it. The roads are amazing, some of the best in the world. Everybody talks about the jumps in Finland and flying in the forests, but when you are flying on Tarmac you have to be that much more sharp, that much more precise – there’s no better feeling than that. The stages will be close to Belfast, a beautiful city and you’ll have service in the Titanic Quarter. It will be a real flagship event.”

Food and drink-wise what would you recommend?
“A pint of Guinness and steak and chips. Obviously you won’t be drinking before you drive but my Peugeot Rally Academy mechanics had this after the test and they seemed happy.”

FIVE FACTS

*When it comes to being successful on the Circuit, Jimmy McRae is the man at the top of the all-time list of winners with seven victories to his name. He’ll be making a guest appearance this year as a course car driver and will present the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.

*The ERC is one big, happy family. Brothers Josh and Sam Moffett are both contenders for a top-10 finish on the Circuit of Ireland, while ERC Junior newcomer Stephen Wright is co-driven by his sister Susanne.

*Circuit of Ireland base Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, can boast a number of exports from the Titanic ocean liner – built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city’s docks – to the DeLorean sportscar, which was manufactured in Dunmurry.

*This year marks the 83rd anniversary of what would become the Circuit of Ireland in 1936. It was known as the Ulster Motor Rally when it first ran in 1931.

*The Circuit of Ireland has hosted the ERC before. In 1991, the year of Colin McRae’s victory, the Circuit was a coefficient 5 event under the old classification system.

Entry List Revealed for Circuit of Ireland

Posted: April 9, 2014 8:21 PM

Fourteen nations will be represented when the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally gets underway next week (17-19 April).

The world-famous event, round four of the FIA European Rally Championship, has attracted a bumper entry with 37 crews signed up for the international section and a further 84 chasing honours in the national contest.

Craig Breen, Ireland’s top international rally driver, heads the entry list in his new-generation Peugeot 208T16. The 24-year-old from Waterford has two world titles to his name in the World Rally Championship’s support categories and scored a standout victory on the Acropolis Rally in Greece last month, his first in the ERC and the first for Peugeot’s all-new challenger.

Esapekka Lappi, a factory driver for Skoda Motorsport and a former Finnish champion, is the second seed with Breen’s Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring next up. Lappi, 23, spent 2013 competing in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship but is focusing his efforts on the ERC this year. He will take heart from the fact that Skoda scored a 1-2-3 finish on the last Circuit of Ireland Rally in 2012.

Dutch driver Abbring, meanwhile, was leading in Greece before a technical problem forced him to retire. A former winner in the Junior world championship, Abbring, 25, is returning to international competition in 2014 following a two-year absence. He was once a team-mate to current world rally champion Sebastien Ogier.

Sepp Wiegand, 23, partners Lappi at Skoda Motorsport having made the switch from motocross three years ago. Although he’s yet to register a victory in the ERC, the young German is highly rated.

Fresh from his participation on Portugal’s round of the world championship, Robert Barrable, from Swords in County Dublin, will be bidding for a strong showing in his Ford Fiesta R5, while Irish brothers Sam and Josh Moffett will both be out to impress their home fans. Sam competes in a Fiesta Regional Rally Car, while his younger sibling Josh is armed with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Moffett Jr will be a favourite for ERC Production Car Cup success where his rivals will include Aaron MacHale and Robert Woodside.

Neil Simpson, a former works driver in the British championship, is next on the list of seeded drivers and is followed by promising French driver Robert Consani, who pilots a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, similar to the type of car Dungannon’s Kris Meeke used to win the Intercontinental Rally Challenge crown in 2009.

Laszlo Vizin will travel from Hungary for his first start in this year’s ERC. Like Consani he, too, will drive a 207 S2000.

Nine of Europe’s best young drivers will be eligible for ERC Junior Championship points on the Circuit of Ireland Rally. The new-for-2014 category is for under-25s only using front-wheel-drive cars conforming to the tightly regulated R2 category rules.

Jan Cerny, from Czech Republic, won the inaugural event in Latvia in early February where he enjoyed a close battle with Norway’s Petter Kristiansen. Italy’s Andrea Crugnola, Poland’s Aleks Zawada and young Briton Chris Ingram will also chase ERC Junior honours, as will category newcomers Gino Bux (Belgium), Alex Parpottas (Great Britain) and Ireland’s Stephen Wright, Motorsport Ireland’s Young Rally Driver of the Year for 2014. Meanwhile, Kevin van Deijne (Netherlands) is back in action after rolling his Fiesta R2 in a dramatic crash in Latvia.

Hungary’s Zoltan Bessenyey, the reigning European two-wheel-drive champion, is a TV presenter in his homeland when he’s not driving a Honda Civic in the ERC, while Finland’s Jukka Korhonen won last year’s British championship title.

Circuit of Ireland Event Director, Bobby Willis, said:
“I am delighted so many nations will be represented when the European Rally Championship comes to Northern Ireland. We are also honoured that so many talented drivers will be taking part in a wide range of machinery and particularly pleased that so many stars of the future will be using the Circuit of Ireland Rally to showcase their talents. The Circuit of Ireland already has a fantastic route in place – it’s now got a truly great entry list.”

The Circuit of Ireland Rally is based in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. Following the Qualifying Stage on Thursday 17 April in Ballycultra Village, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, competitors will assemble outside Belfast City Hall for the ceremonial start from 18:00hrs. The stages take place on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, while there are numerous opportunities for fans to get close up to their heroes at the Downpatrick, Hillsborough Castle and Banbridge regroups, plus numerous visits to the service park in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. There are also two street stages in Lisburn and Newtownards.

Rising European stars set for Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: March 28, 2014 9:41 AM

With the countdown to the Circuit of Ireland International Rally gathering pace the organising team are pleased to confirm today that two of Europe’s brightest young stars, Craig Breen of Ireland and Dutch driver Kevin Abbring, will be in a rapidly growing entry list.

With just three weeks to go until the European Rally Championship comes to Belfast for the first time, the names of former World Super 2000 champion Breen, from Waterford, and ex-FIA Institute Excellence Academy member and Junior WRC event winner Abbring, were announced as definite starters at a launch event held today at the Titanic Drawing Offices in Belfast.

SKODA Motorsport is also finalising plans to enter two factory-prepared Fabia Super 2000s, which will mean two more very exciting young talents from Europe coming to the Circuit of Ireland next month.

Both Breen and Abbring, who drive for the French Peugeot Rally Academy team, are currently in Greece preparing for the start of the Acropolis Rally tomorrow evening. The Greek round will see Abbring and Breen debut Peugeot’s new R5 category car, the 208T16, which has been extensively developed by Breen and Irish World championship star Kris Meeke over the past 12 months.

“It’s been very exciting being involved in the development of the new car and I know that fans from all corners of the country are eagerly anticipating seeing it,” said Breen. “There is always a buzz around the Circuit of Ireland but it feels particularly special because it is the only round of the FIA European Rally Championship in the UK and Ireland.

“My co-driver Scott Martin and I are entered in the second round of the Dunlop Irish National Championship next week and we intend to use that event as an extensive tarmac test session before taking on our European rivals at Easter.”

SKODA’s planned participation on the Circuit of Ireland Rally is also significant for the event. The Fabia S2000 has been a dominant force in international rallying for several seasons with Juho Hanninen leading home a famous one-two-three for SKODA when the Circuit of Ireland last took place in 2012. The United Kingdom is also a very important market for SKODA, meaning a visit to Belfast would be very attractive to the Czech company.

This year’s event, which will be held from Thursday 17 April to Saturday 19 April, is one of 12 rallies in the FIA European Rally Championship calendar and will be the only round of the championship in the UK and Ireland. Around 130 drivers are expected to take part. Broadcast by Eurosport, the rally is expected to attract over 10 million viewers across the globe. It is anticipated that the Circuit will generate over £1 million for the local economy.

Speaking at the rally launch, Event Director Bobby Willis revealed that the competitors taking part will come from all over Europe, including Holland, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK as well as Finland and the USA but will also include many local drivers such as the youngest Donegal International winner Sam Moffett in an RRC (Regional Rally Car) Ford Fiesta, his brother Josh in a Mitsubishi Evo and Ireland’s recent Billy Coleman Young Driver Award winner Stephen Wright in an R2 Peugeot 208.

The national rally which runs alongside the international event, and is part of the premier Irish Tarmac Championship, will see drivers ranging from five times Circuit winner Derek McGarrity and current Irish national champion Declan Boyle in their powerful WRC cars to 70-year-old Dessie McCartney from Bangor, the 1980 Ulster Rally winner, who is expected to be the oldest driver taking part. He will drive a lightweight Darrian sports car.

Bobby said:
“We’re hoping to see thousands of really fans come out and support this fantastic event – one of the oldest rallies in the world - and now a key fixture in the European Rally Championship calendar. There are many opportunities for the public to spectate, as the course is set to cover more than 230 kilometres across counties Down and Antrim.

“From the qualifying stage at the picturesque Ulster Folk & Transport Museum to the ceremonial start at Belfast City Centre and the service park at Titanic Belfast, as well as many towns and villages, the atmosphere is set to be electric.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, who attended today’s event, said:
“There is huge interest in this newly revamped series and the event will help raise the profile of Northern Ireland, not only for those who come here to see the rally for themselves but also to TV audiences across Europe and the world.

“As well as being able to watch high profile drivers battling it out, viewers will also see pictures of the spectacular landscapes, beautiful scenery and tourism landmarks in counties Down and Antrim. Tourism Ireland will be working hard in our European markets to capitalise on the promotional opportunities these pictures and the rally will create.

“The historic Circuit of Ireland is one of our finest home-grown sporting tourism events and I congratulate everyone involved in keeping this premier rallying experience at the top of the agenda for drivers, spectators and visitors alike. As the clock counts down to Easter, I know the drivers and organisers are gearing up for the event and are pulling out all the stops to make this year’s rally the best yet.”

Bobby Willis added:
“Entries are flooding in and I’m delighted to see there’s some fantastic local and international drivers among them. As well as Abbring and Breen we’re thrilled to see other big names including new British champion Jukka Korhonen, from Finland, and Laszlo Vizin from Hungary on the list. Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna, this year’s Pirelli Star Driver will be breaking into his British championship schedule to take part.

“The Rally also counts as Round Two of the new-for-2014 FIA ERC Junior Championship which is a very exciting development and we will see young drivers like Alex Parpottas, Petter Kristiansen and Gino Bux, who was chosen from over 200 young drivers to benefit from scholarship support from the Belgium Motorsport Federation, taking part. We are also pleased to welcome Jan Cerny, the winner of the inaugural event in Latvia last month.”

Record holder Jimmy McRae, seven times winner of the Rally, said he was delighted to travel from his home in Scotland to attend today’s launch event. “The Circuit of Ireland is very special to me. It was the first major event I won back in 1980 after an epic battle with Ari Vatanen in my DTV Chevette HSR. It’s a great event and one that drivers both from Northern Ireland and further afield are really looking forward to. The fans here are amazing and will help to add to the fantastic atmosphere over the three days.”

The Qualifying Stage of the Rally will be based at Ballycultra Village, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum on Thursday 17 April, followed by a ceremonial start at Belfast City Hall that evening.

Spectator Stages will take place in Newtownards on Friday 18 April and Lisburn on Saturday 19 April. Downpatrick and Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch will be regroup areas on Friday while on Saturday Banbridge and Hillsborough will play host to teams regrouping. (exact times below)

Entries for the 2014 Circuit of Ireland close on Tuesday 1 April.

Organisers are in the process of finalising arrangements for what promises to be a bumper weekend of motorsport and the management team is calling for additional volunteers to join the existing team of marshals. For more details and to register log onto www.circuitofireland.net or call the volunteer hotline 07732 612261 / +44 7732 612261

Maximum Attack Ahead for McGarrity on the Circuit.

Posted: March 28, 2014 8:54 AM

Five times Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity is set for a full attack on the Circuit of Ireland in his newly acquired Mini WRC, after debuting the car to victory on the opening round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship at Bishopscourt.

The Glengormley driver won by a convincing twenty-five seconds. It could have been closer had stage one not been cancelled due to a timing problem, as the Mini limped through the stage in safe mode.

However, Derek is now all set for a big attack on the Circuit in the ex-Motorsport Italia Mini.
“This is an 01B specification Mini, so it’s a later version than the one I used in 2012. The braking and chassis are superb, and I really enjoyed the car at Bishopscourt,” commented Derek. “I think it’s good to move on to these newer 1600 WRC cars, as things need to move on. It’s better for the sport than seeing ten year-old Subaru’s winning. Our plan is to further develop this car, and the time will now be spent testing before the Circuit of Ireland to do just that. I intend to tackle the Northern Ireland Championship again this year, and the Circuit is of course very important.”

The four time Northern Ireland Rally Champion will be a formidable force at Easter, but he will have to fend off the challenges from the older, but more powerful WRC Subaru’s, and Irish Tarmac Championship round one winner Declan Boyle will be one to watch out for.

Simpson Looking Forward to ‘Fab’ Run at Easter

Posted: March 28, 2014 8:52 AM

British driver Neil Simpson is hoping for a fabulous run on the Circuit of Ireland this Easter. Simpson, who has returned to rallying this year after a break of over a decade to concentrate on building the family business, has just sent in his entry for the Circuit.

Neil’s Irish adventure will be one of eight rallies he plans to contest in 2014 with his newly acquired Skoda Fabia S2000. Experienced co-driver Claire Mole will call the notes throughout the season. Simpson last competed on Irish roads on the 2001 Lurgan Park Rally so the challenging stages planned this Easter weekend should provide a stern test for the British visitor.

Despite having taken a sabbatical from rallying for some time, Simpson has already hit the ground running in 2014 with a podium finish on the North West Stages in England and a strong top ten finish on the recent Rallye le Touquet in France. Simpson’s pace after such a long layoff is hardly surprising though. He competed in his first event aged just 17 and in 1995 won the prestigious Shell Scholarship Scheme. After that, Simpson drove for Volkswagen and in 1998 and 1999 produced some stunning drives at the wheel of a VW Golf TDI including 5th on the Ulster Rally and 2nd on the Manx Rally.

You can often see the Simpson Skoda S2000 rally car on display at either of their Lancashire dealerships but we would recommend seeing it travelling at speed through the Irish lanes in a few weeks time!

Circuit Ramps up the Search for Extra Marshals

Posted: March 21, 2014 12:25 PM

Circuit of Ireland organisers are urging people throughout Northern Ireland to sign up as volunteer marshals for the upcoming FIA ERC Circuit of Ireland Rally. The event, which is for the first time ever part of a newly revamped European Rally Championship calendar, takes place during Easter week-end from 17 – 19 April.

“This year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally is set to be one of the biggest and best ever and to help us deliver a top quality event we require an overall volunteer base of up to 600 people,” explained Event Director Bobby Willis.

“We already have a comprehensive number of experienced team leaders and assistants covering all our stages in counties Antrim and Down, as well as the Service Park and Rally HQ at Titanic Belfast and the ceremonial start in Belfast City Centre. However we’re currently seeking up to 200 additional marshals and other volunteers to work alongside our seasoned teams at various locations from Thursday to Easter Saturday.”

Volunteer roles include marshalling at exciting vantage points at each of the Rally’s Special Stages as well as organisational roles at the Rally Service Park and Media Centre in Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Other volunteer opportunities are based at refuel zones in Banbridge and Ballynahinch, the ‘regroup’ centres in Downpatrick, Hillsborough and Banbridge and at time-keeping units at the start and finish of each stage. Organisers have stressed that you don’t need to be a so-called petrol head or motorsport fan, but simply be motivated , enthusiastic and enjoy working with a great team of people who are bringing international motorsport to Northern Ireland

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for volunteers to get right up close to the action, meet the rally drivers and see all rally in close proximity,” said Bobby Willis. “It also provides people, young and the not so young with a chance to refine management, leadership and life skills. Bottom line, it’s wonderful craic and a great chance to be involved in a world renowned sporting event which will be broadcast to over 10 million television viewers worldwide.”

“We provide an intensive training session just prior to the event and as a thank you, we present all volunteers with a unique 2014 Circuit of Ireland souvenir gift. Volunteers can also continue their involvement with motorsport through the Motorsport Marshalling Partnership, where qualifying volunteers will have the opportunity to experience rallying themselves at a special Marshals Day workshop at Kirkistown race circuit later in the year.”

To be part of the action and to find out more details visit the event website or call the volunteer hotline 07732 612261 / +44 7732 612261

Circuit Challenge for 18 Year Old Jordan

Posted: March 21, 2014 10:07 AM

For 18 year-old Jordan Hone the Circuit of Ireland presents a big challenge over two days of closed road competition. Having started competitive driving at the age of 13 on junior rally-sprint events, Jordan made his rallying debut on the 2013 New Year Stages at Kirkistown, recording a fine 16th overall and class win on his first event.

Navigated by father Paul, he then took his Rally Hire Micra to victory in class three of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship (NIRC), earning him the Magherafelt & District Motor Club novice driver of the year award. On his first closed-road event, the Tour of The Sperrins, he was third in class, and he followed that with a second in class on the two-day Ulster Rally. Now it’s the Circuit for the first time.
“I am really looking forward to it,” commented Jordan "It will be a tough event, and we need to make sure to finish the first leg and see where we are in the NIRC class. It’s great to be part of the event with the hype of the ERC on it, and to be rallying on the same special stages. I know dad has contested the Easter Stages many times, but I think he’s yet to finish, so that will be one of our aims this year.”

His father Paul has twenty-five years of experience in the co-driver’s seat, but what’s it like for Jordan having his dad in the car?
“Having dad there is great. We don’t argue or anything and I do listen to him. He has a lot of experience, he doesn’t shout or anything so it’s good to have him on board.” Jordan contested the Bishopscourt Stages to kick off his Northern Ireland Championship campaign.

Moffett Brothers Eyeing Up Circuit Challenge

Posted: March 18, 2014 10:24 AM

Two of Ireland’s brightest rallying talents are relishing the thoughts of competing on the 2014 Circuit of Ireland and as fate would have it, they happen to be brothers. Sam and Josh Moffett from Clontibret in Co. Monaghan are regular competitors on the Irish rally scene. After sampling European action on the IRC as part of the Circuit of Ireland in 2012, they feel much better equipped for the challenge this year.

Sam was crowned Motorsport Ireland young Rally Driver of the Year in 2012 and has since moved up to a Fiesta World Rally Car which he debuted earlier this year.
“I really enjoyed the Circuit in 2012 but I’ve learned so much since then. I’m very lucky to have the Fiesta this year and I’m thinking of running it in regional specification to accurately gauge my pace against the ERC regulars. If it goes well I may do a few rallies abroad later in the year,” said Sam.

Josh meanwhile, plans to use his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 that brought him much success last year. He won many championships in the car and was runner up in another and he too has reasons to be optimistic this Easter.
“Two years ago I was still very much a novice in four-wheel drive but I’ve built up a lot of seat time since and I’m really comfortable in the car now. I’ll be out to beat my rivals in the production section of the Irish Tarmac Championship for sure but hopefully a few production cars will enter from the continent to keep me on my toes!”

Pirelli Star Wants To Shine At Easter

Posted: March 18, 2014 10:23 AM

Recently crowned Pirelli Star Driver Daniel McKenna is hoping to shine this Easter on the Circuit of Ireland. The Monaghan driver has been singled out as one of the most promising talents in Ireland and Britain and is in the process of putting together a deal for the Circuit.

“I’ll be tacking the British Rally Championship as part of my Pirelli Star Driver campaign but I’m planning to do events outside of that programme and the Circuit will hopefully be one of them,” said McKenna recently. “The chance to compete against Europe’s top drivers in similar machinery on home soil is too good an opportunity to miss. I’ve yet to compete on the Circuit of Ireland but it’s such an iconic event with a very rich history, and it’s very rare you get a chance to compare yourself to professional drivers on an Irish rally. I really can’t wait!”

McKenna shot to prominence with some startling drives in a Mark 2 Ford Escort and he was crowned the Billy Coleman Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver of the Year in 2012. On the back of winning the Coleman Award, McKenna focused his attention on the British Rally Championship where he won the R2 class and secured a place in the coveted Pirelli Star Driver Shootout which he then won. Previous winners of that award include current M-Sport World Rally Team driver, Elfyn Evans and 3 times British Champion, Keith Cronin.

Historic Folk Museum setting for Circuit’s North Down Qualifying Stage

Posted: March 12, 2014 11:06 AM


Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis, Will Heaney (Thoroughbred Car Club NI)
1964 Circuit of Ireland winning co-driver Terry Harryman, North Down Deputy Mayor Cllr Jennifer Gilmour,
Gordon Dunne MLA, Cllr Stephen Dunne, Museum guide Victor.


Top Circuit of Ireland Rally competitors will converge at Ballycultra Village in the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum on Thursday 17 April from 11:00 for the official Qualifying Stage of this year’s Circuit of Ireland, the first pure asphalt Rally on the FIA European Rally Championship calendar and a counting round of the new-for-2014 FIA ERC Junior Championship.

Hosted by North Down Borough Council and facilitated by the award winning Folk Museum which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Qualifying Stage will see designated priority drivers take part in a special closed road stage nearby, to determine the official starting order on the first competitive day of rallying the following day.

Priority crews, who are selected by event and championship officials according to their previous performances and international seeding, will undertake two runs of Free Practice from 11:00 before the Qualifying Stage gets underway at 13:03. Measuring 4.15 kilometres in length the qualifying stage will be held within the Holywood Hills area.

The fastest driver will win the ability to be the first to select their preferred starting position for day one, with the second fastest driver next to choose and so on until all priority drivers have made their choice. The official selections will take place as part of the Ceremonial Start at Belfast City Hall that evening (Thursday April 17). Crews competing without priority status can avail of the venue for shakedown from 13:45- 16:00 to finalise their car set-up for the following day’s action.

Taking centre stage at the launch and linking the past into the present was one of the Museum’s oldest exhibits – a unique MMC 10 hp classic car dating back to 1903 - alongside Northern Ireland Rally Champion Derek McGarrity’s newly acquired ex Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson 01B Mini.

Joining North Down Deputy Mayor, Cllr Jennifer Gilmour, MLA Gordon Dunne and Cllr Stephen Dunne at the special Qualifying Stage event launch was the 1964 Circuit of Ireland winning co-driver Terry Harryman who clinched victory in a mini cooper with driver Ronnie McCartney.

Welcoming the Circuit of Ireland to the North Down region, Deputy Mayor of North Down, Cllr Jennifer Gilmour said,
“We’re delighted that North Down is once again included in the Circuit of Ireland Rally programme. It’s a hugely iconic and historic sporting event and the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum will provide an excellent backdrop offering global viewers through Eurosport a distinct flavour of one of our top tourist attractions. The Borough is looking forward to meeting Rally competitors and their back up teams from all over Europe as well as fans and new visitors to the region.”

Event Director, Bobby Willis paid tribute to North Down Borough Council for their support and contribution and also thanked local MLA Gordon Dunne and his son Stephen, a Borough Council member who were both instrumental in setting up the Museum based Qualifying Stage.

“Gordon and Stephen Dunne are well known motorsport fans and we very much appreciate their help and support in bringing the Circuit to such a fabulous tourist setting in North Down. The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum is one of Northern Ireland’s top attractions and both rally visitors and TV viewers will be massively impressed by the heritage and setting for our all-important Qualifying Stage. I’d also like to thank Cllr Gilmour and North Down Borough Council for hosting Thursday afternoon’s shakedown.”

“Through its extensive classic motor vehicle exhibits and the annual Cultra Hill Climb with the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club NI, the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum has a clear synergy with motorsport. I‘m confident our competitors will relish taking on the challenging surrounding roads as part of this qualifying stage for the main competitive stages of the Circuit.”

Gordon Dunne MLA has been a long supporter of key motorsport events including the Circuit of Ireland.
“Both my son Stephen and I are avid fans and it’s wonderful for the Borough to host part of such a prestigious international event. The eyes of the motorsport world will focus on Northern Ireland and it provides such a wonderful opportunity to showcase our top attractions, such as the Museum, in the North Down area. The region has had a long tradition and a huge following for rallying and we’re all looking forward to seeing star drivers both local and international perform to the very best of their ability.”

The Museum’s Road Transport Curator, Mark Kennedy is thrilled to welcome the Circuit of Ireland Rally to Cultra for the first time in the event’s history.
“I have happy memories of the Circuit starting in Bangor during the 1970’s and it will make my Easter to see them visit the Museum at Cultra.”

Entries for the 2014 Circuit of Ireland are now open and will close on Tuesday 1st April. Organisers are in the process of finalising arrangements for what promises to be a bumper week-end of motorsport and the management team are calling for additional volunteers to join the existing team of marshals. For more details and to register log onto www.circuitofireland.net or call the volunteer hotline 07732 612261 / +44 7732 612261

Barrable first to sign up as entries officially open for Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: March 7, 2014 2:45 PM

Circuit of Ireland Rally organisers have confirmed that this year’s startline will include high profile FIA WRC 2 competitor, Dublin’s Robert Barrable who is set to contest the Circuit’s international rally, the fourth round of the 2014 European Rally Championship.

Paris based Federation Internationale de l’Automobile have officially signed off the Circuit’s entry regulations allowing organisers to forge ahead and accept entries in both the International and National events.

Taking place on 17-19 April the Circuit of Ireland Rally will be the first fully asphalt event on the FIA European Rally Championship roster. The Circuit also counts as Round Two of the new-for-2014 FIA ERC Junior Championship.

Welcoming Barrable as the Circuit’s first official entry, Event Director Bobby Willis said,
“It’s fantastic to get the official go ahead on entry regulations from the FIA and we’re moving into top gear now as we progress with entries coming in. We’re confident 2014 will be a Circuit to remember with a stellar cast of competitors and iconic cars thrilling fans and spectators at each competitive stage.”

Billed as a rising FIA WRC 2 series star, 26 year old Robert Barrable will compete in the Circuit’s international class in his Tunnock’s World Rally team Ford Fiesta R5. Barrable’s team have confirmed he and his co-driver Stuart Loudon will contest the Circuit of Ireland following the world championship-counting Rally of Portugal in early April.

A delighted Robert Barrable said,
“I love competing on the Circuit of Ireland – it’s such a prestigious event with a great history, the stages are fantastic and the thousands of spectators create a magnificent atmosphere. My earliest memories of the Circuit are going to the event with my father Michael to help Austin McHale. Austin was famous for his flat-out approach to rallying, and that’s going to be my approach too this year in the Fiesta R5.

“I’ve done the Circuit of Ireland four times and last time out I finished sixth overall in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 in 2012. The Fiesta R5 will be even better suited to the event than the Super 2000 was, so I’ll be aiming to better that result. With all the very fast European drivers and the FIA European Rally Championship competitors, it will be a very difficult event to win – but I’d like to think we have a podium finish in us. As always, we’ll be giving it our best shot.”

Entries for the 2014 Circuit of Ireland close on Tuesday 1st April.

Organisers are in the process of finalising arrangements for what promises to be a bumper week-end of motorsport and the management team are calling for additional volunteers to join the existing team of marshals. For more details and to register log onto www.circuitofireland.net or call the volunteer hotline 07732 612261 / +44 7732 612261

Regulations / On Line Entry

Posted: March 3, 2014 10:25 PM

Available at:

Circuit of Ireland Ards Stage Recreates Past TT Glory

Posted: February 26, 2014 9:58 AM


Launching the special stage in Ards, is Bobby Willis, Event Director of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally, and Mayor of Ards, Cllr Stephen McIlveen


2014 Circuit of Ireland organisers along with Ards Borough Council will hark back to the heady days of the 1930s TT Races with the introduction of a new Ards TT Town Centre Special Stage on Friday, 18th April taking in Conway Square and surrounding urban and rural roads in the Newtownards region.

Top European motorsport stars such as Lebegue, Caracciola and Nuvolari who in the 1930’s were as high profile as today’s F1 heroes, Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso, all took part in the world famous Ards TT Races from 1928 until 1936.

Circuit of Ireland organisers aim to recreate the atmosphere of those glory days when up to half a million spectators from the island of Ireland and beyond converged to watch Alfa-Romeos, Talbots and Mercedes cars take on the celebrated Tourist Trophy roads challenge. This year on Good Friday morning, Conway Square in the heart of the market town will once again echo to the sounds of world class machinery when over 100 competitors will pass through a Time Control in the Town Square on their way out to the first competitive stages of the day. Drivers will then return to Newtownards on Friday evening for a closed road ‘Special Stage’ through the streets of the town.

The 2014 Circuit of Ireland has been billed by ERC organisers Eurosport Events as one of three ‘legendary’ events alongside the Acropolis and Corisca rallies. It takes place on 17-19 April and will be the first fully asphalt race of the FIA European Rally Championship.

Helping to launch the Ards TT Town Centre stage was Ards Mayor, Cllr Stephen McIlveen along with Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis. Linking the past to present day rallying and making a special ‘show’ appearance at the Ards stage will be the classic 1930s green Talbot 105 (pictured) owned by local motorsport enthusiast Nick Ward.

Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis said,
“A Talbot 105 car entered the inaugural Circuit of Ireland event in 1931 and we’re delighted to profile such a fantastic classic car for the Ards TT Special Stage - this is an area hugely synonymous with motorsport glory.

“In terms of the Circuit, this is a first for the Ards area and I’d like to pay tribute to Mayor McIlveen and the Council’s vision and foresight in bringing such a high profile motorsport event to the region. In addition to Newtownards, the event will help showcase ‘Destination Strangford’ and the beauty of the lough itself.

“Town Centre stages are incredibly popular with fans and the general public and we look forward to welcoming visitors to Ards town centre on Good Friday. It’s a huge undertaking in terms of infrastructure and safety equipment, but plans are well underway and I believe it will be a fantastic and exciting event for Ards and the surrounding region.”

Mr Willis added,
“An important factor of our programme will be our road safety message ‘Keep the Race in its Place’ and alongside the Council we will be highlighting road safety and its importance for everyday drivers.”

Mayor of Ards, Councillor Stephen McIlveen, who originally proposed that Ards Borough Council support the new stage of the rally, said:
“The Circuit of Ireland is a prestigious motorsport event and to have a stage of the rally introduced here in Ards is a real coup. It adds yet another reason to visit and enjoy this area’s attractions and brings a boost to the local economy, as well as our growing reputation as a venue for high quality events.

“Ards Borough Council is delighted to be backing this part of the rally and, as someone who worked both behind and in front of the scenes to bring the event to Ards, I personally am very pleased that we will be welcoming the cars, the drivers and the spectators to what is sure to be a truly memorable occasion.”

BARRABLE TARGETS CIRCUIT OF IRELAND ENTRY

Posted: February 21, 2014 6:21 PM

Leading FIA WRC 2 driver Robert Barrable is trying to secure the funding needed to contest the Circuit of Ireland Rally from 17-19 April.

The promising 26-year-old from Dublin will tackle the world championship-counting Rally of Portugal from 3-6 April. Providing he can raise the necessary budget, Barrable and co-driver Stuart Loudon will contest round four of the FIA European Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta R5.

“I really want to do the rally,” said Barrable, who finished eighth overall when the Circuit of Ireland Rally was last run in 2012. “The European championship is a superb series and it has great TV coverage, which also gives the private driver plenty of promotion, as well as the professionals. As for the Circuit, it’s always a well-organised rally, a famous rally, and a challenging one. I am just waiting to hear back from our main sponsor, Tunnock’s and hopefully we will be there.”

Literary Flourish for Circuit’s Banbridge Stage

Posted: February 12, 2014 2:28 PM


Launching the ‘Bronte Homeland’ stage of the Circuit of Ireland are (from left)
Chairman of Banbridge District Council, Cllr Olive Mercer and Rally Event Director, Bobby Willis
pictured with Bronte period models - Stuart Allister and Joanne Magennis.


Banbridge’s Bronte Homeland has given its name to a special stage of this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally taking place on Easter Saturday, 19 April.

The ‘Bronte Homeland’ stage is the longest competitive stage during the two day European Rally Championship event which will take in nearly 30 Km of picturesque roads between Banbridge and Rathfriland. Competitors will cover the special stage twice and as well as that, shoppers will be able to get alongside all the action in Banbridge town centre on the Saturday afternoon, when the cars will be assembled in ‘The Cut’ during a Rally Regroup.

The closed road special stage will include many of the Bronte heritage locations which celebrate Banbridge’s connection to the famous Bronte sisters through their rector father Patrick Bronte. Patrick was born and brought up in the region before studying at Cambridge University and finally settling in Yorkshire where his literary daughters Emily, Charlotte and Anne lived and wrote their world famous novels Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Helping to launch the Bronte Homeland stage of the Circuit of Ireland is Chairman of Banbridge District Council, Cllr Olive Mercer and Rally Event Director, Bobby Willis with Bronte period models - Stuart Allister and Joanne Magennis.

Local star Kenny McKinstry is particularly pleased that the Banbridge area will have so much of the action, “It’s wonderful to hear the organisers are running a stage so close to Banbridge. The roads in this area are incredible and always popular with the drivers. A special stage of this length will be a real test of man and machine.

“To also have a ‘regroup control’ in the centre of Banbridge will be fantastic and a real opportunity for shoppers and rally fans to get up close and personal with the competitors.”

Welcoming the Circuit of Ireland, Banbridge District Chairman, Cllr Olive Mercer said:
“We are delighted to have an international spotlight shone upon one of the jewels in the crown of the Banbridge region. We are immensely proud of our Bronte connections and view the Circuit of Ireland Rally and the resulting Eurosport television coverage and interest as a great opportunity to promote our literary heritage set in a spectacular rural landscape.”

During the Rally Regroup period, Banbridge District Council has planned a three hour festival of family fun activities on Easter Saturday afternoon. Adding a carnival atmosphere and entertaining shoppers and visitors in Newry Street and Bridge Street will be stilt walkers, jugglers, samba dancers and Rally themed performers.

Thanking Banbridge District Council for their support, Circuit of Ireland Event Director, Bobby Willis said:
“Banbridge’s link to the Bronte family is in itself a story worth telling. It has been our intention throughout the planning of the Circuit of Ireland Rally to tell these stories – some high profile and others less known – of Northern Ireland, so the world can witness our rich heritage and beautiful scenery, as a stunning backdrop to the iconic Circuit of Ireland Rally.”

The 2014 Circuit of Ireland has been billed by ERC organisers Eurosport Events as one of three ‘legendary’ events alongside the Acropolis and Corsica rallies. It takes place on 17-19 April and will be the first fully asphalt race of the European Rally Championship.

Monte Carlo Legend Launches Circuit of Ireland Lisburn Stages

Posted: February 3, 2014 7:35 PM


Launching the Circuit of Ireland’s renowned ‘Lisburn Power Stage’ at the city’s Civic Centre are (from left)
1964 Monte Carlo Rally and 5 times Circuit of Ireland Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk ,
Mayor of Lisburn, Cllr Margaret Tolerton and Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis.


The Circuit of Ireland’s renowned ‘Lisburn Power Stage’ will make a welcome return visit to the City this Easter. Part of the European Rally Championship for 2014, the iconic Rally has announced a rerun of the thrilling stage at Lisburn’s Civic Centre on Saturday 19th April.
First included in the Circuit’s route in 2011 and repeated in 2012 the popular Lisburn stage attracted huge crowds and support both within Lisburn City Centre. Lisburn’s state of the art Civic Centre, situated on the scenic River Lagan will be the hub of the action and Circuit partner Lisburn City Council will host a full range of family focused entertainment for rally fans and visitors in the City that day.

World Rally Hall of Fame inductee and 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk helped launch the Lisburn stages along with Mayor of Lisburn, Cllr Margaret Tolerton and Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis.

Legend Paddy, who has chalked up 5 Circuit of Ireland Rally trophies, celebrates the 50th anniversary this year of his famous 1964 Mini Cooper victory in Monte Carlo.

Welcoming Paddy and the Circuit of Ireland to Lisburn, Mayor of Lisburn Cllr Margaret Tolerton said:
“I am delighted that the Circuit of Ireland is once again visiting our city and allowing our residents the opportunity to watch well-known rally drivers undertake a ‘super-special’ rally stage in Lisburn. The Council expects a high number of spectators at the event and I am delighted to advise that once again there will be a family fun day in Castle Gardens with activities and stalls for all ages on Saturday 19th April.

“Lisburn City Council is committed through its Tourism Unit to supporting a variety of events being held within the Council area; and to have the opportunity to work with the Circuit of Ireland team once again is a privilege,” she concluded.

Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis said,
“Lisburn is one of the most hotly contested and best supported stages of the Rally. In 2012 the Lisburn Power Stage determined the overall result of the event - Andreas Mikkelsen lost time when he hit a hay bale and the Circuit was ultimately won by Juho Hanninen.

“We anticipate an equally exciting stage in the Lisburn area on Easter Saturday and would like to pay tribute to Lisburn City Council for all their support and contribution to the Circuit of Ireland both this year and during previous events.

“Entries will be opening soon and already there has been substantial interest from a number of competitors in mainland Europe for the International Rally as well as our national competitors at home. The event regulations are currently with the FIA (4 wheel motorsport) and will be published as soon as they are returned.” explained Bobby Willis.

Ancient and Modern Heritage play key roles in Downpatrick stages of 2014 Circuit of Ireland

Posted: January 9, 2014 10:26 AM

The Downpatrick district leg of the international Circuit of Ireland Rally will revive special stages used regularly during the 1980s when star drivers Jimmy McRae, Billy Coleman, Russell Brookes and David Llewellin were competing for the Circuit of Ireland’s iconic UAC Trophy.

Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis, alongside Down District Council Chairman, Cllr Maria McCarthy today confirmed the legendary rally will visit Downpatrick and Mourne Tourism Destinations on Good Friday, April 18, 2014.

Also helping to launch the Downpatrick stages of the Circuit was local driver and Circuit of Ireland competitor Fintan McGrady:
“I’ve competed in this world famous event many times during the last two decades and it’s truly a unique experience! As a native of this region it will be extra special competing on my home turf and I’m sure there will be lots of spectators cheering on all the local competitors.”

Downpatrick will be one of the hubs of the event with rally cars, team members and fans converging in the centre of the ancient cathedral town for a ‘regroup.’

As well as the opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal with the rally competitors, the public will also be able to enjoy a range of family focussed activities and entertainment organised by Down District Council and experience the cultural heritage and visitor attractions that Downpatrick has to offer.

Organisers will also be promoting the Circuit of Ireland affiliated road safety message, ‘Keep the Race in its Place’ via various activities during the ‘regroup.’

Thanking Down District Council for their contribution and support for the upcoming Rally, Mr Willis said:
“The 2014 Circuit of Ireland is delighted to team up with Down District Council. The positive images to be broadcast worldwide by Eurosport of Downpatrick and the surrounding countryside will help to further raise the tourism profile of this historic and stunning region as well as generating economic benefits for both the town and the wider area.

“By bringing the Rally to Downpatrick we anticipate an influx of several thousand visitors many of them travelling to the region for the very first time. One of twelve prestigious events featured on the European Rally Championship calendar and the second oldest Rally after Monte Carlo, the Circuit of Ireland has been dubbed ‘legendary’ by ERC organisers. It’s therefore fitting that we have included historic, legendary and heritage elements within the Downpatrick area into the Circuit’s initial day of competitive racing.

“It’s wonderful to bring the Circuit to this area of Down as it’s such an inspiring and ancient region. I’m sure all the drivers and co-drivers as well as visitors will appreciate and value such a prestigious ‘regroup’ location.”

Outlining their support for the Circuit of Ireland, Down District Council Chairman, Cllr Maria McCarthy said:
“On behalf of Down District Council I’d like to welcome the Circuit of Ireland to St Patrick’s Country and Mourne Tourism Destinations. We’re delighted to be part of such a huge international sporting event and believe it provides an excellent opportunity to showcase our historic town and ecclesiastical links to St Patrick as well as our stunning rural scenery. Easter Week-end is set to be a busy time for local businesses and tourist attractions and we hope that all our visitors and competitors enjoy their time in St Patrick’s Country and Mourne Tourism area and experience the wide variety of tourism opportunities that the area has to offer.”

Belfast plays central role in 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: December 18, 2013 11:23 AM


Pirelli star driver Daniel McKenna (right) from Monaghan joined Belfast Lord Mayor,
Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis(left)
at the City Hall to launch the Belfast stages of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland.


Circuit of Ireland organisers have named Belfast as a key host of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally with the ceremonial start and finish of the rally taking place in the city.

The Rally HQ and Service Park will be located in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter welcoming over 1000 competitors and team personnel over a four- day period next Easter.

The first tarmac rally on the 12-strong European Rally Championship calendar, the Circuit of Ireland gets into gear on Thursday 17th April with a ceremonial start in central Belfast. The two day rally then kicks off on Friday 18th April with the course set to cover more than 230 competitive kilometres taking in stages in Belfast and counties Down and Antrim. The rally will finish back in Belfast on Saturday evening.

Billed as a ‘legendary’ event by ERC organisers, Eurosport Events who will broadcast the race, the Circuit is expected to attract more than 10 million viewers globally as well as thousands of spectators and team officials who will travel to Northern Ireland . It’s anticipated the event will generate over £1 million for the local economy.

Belfast City Council is a key partner of the Circuit of Ireland and Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:
“It’s fantastic to welcome another high profile sporting event to the city. Belfast is continuing to grow in stature as one of the world’s premier sporting venues. We hosted the World Police and Fire Games in the summer of 2013 attracting visitors from all corners of the globe. With the circuit of Ireland on its way as well as the Giro d ‘Italia, 2014 looks set to be another bumper year for sport and attracting increased tourism to Belfast.”

Thanking Belfast City Council for its support, Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis said:
“There are very few rallies in the world that get the opportunity to base themselves in a capital city. The support and interest from Belfast has been overwhelming. The event will generate major economic and tourism benefits for the city, both in terms of visitor numbers and in positive television images, which will be broadcast around the world through Eurosport. The Circuit of Ireland has been hailed as a ‘flagship event’ among the 12 rallies of the European Rally Championship so I’m sure Belfast is set to feature as a highlight in this top international series.”

Early next year Circuit organisers will announce further details on the rally route and stages.

Circuit of Ireland secures a Round of new FIA ERC Junior Championship

Posted: November 25, 2013 2:35 PM

FIA European Rally Championship promoters, Eurosport Events have announced the inclusion of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland as a round in a new FIA ERC Junior Championship.
The Junior Championship will be contested alongside the ERC Championship in 2014 across 7 of the 12 ERC rallies.
The Circuit of Ireland, scheduled to take place on 17-19 April, is second on the ‘Junior’ programme following Rally Liep?ja in Latvia (31 January – 2 February 2014)
The FIA ERC Junior Championship will take place on a variety of surfaces with drivers counting their best four scores. Drivers must be 25 and under on 1 January 2014 to be able to take part and must use R2-specification cars. Only drivers competing with an R2 car from a brand registered with the FIA will be eligible. A control tyre supplier will provide tyres for sale and pump fuel only, provided by a single supplier, will be allowed.

ERC Junior Championship entrants will be seeded together on events, starting just behind the four-wheel-drive crews to help promotion and filming. The winning driver will get the use of an R5 car for selected ERC events in 2015. Further awards and incentives will be announced in due course. Eurosport Events will organise a dedicated promotion throughout the season, including a dedicated television package. Training programmes during rallies will also be provided. Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis said,
“It’s a major coup for the Circuit of Ireland to be involved in the FIA ERC Junior Championship for Drivers and it’s a first for the island of Ireland. The Junior Championship has contributed massively to international rallying, encouraging younger drivers to get involved at a higher level and providing vital experience to enable them to progress within the sport.”

Supporting the new ERC Junior round, Dungannon driver and former IRC winner Kris Meeke said,
“It’s a massive opportunity and an absolute must for young drivers from this neck of the woods to do the ERC Junior Championship when it comes to the Circuit of Ireland Rally next season and showcase their ability against strong European opposition. I’m such a believer in junior categories and because all drivers have got to learn the basics to start off with before they come through into other categories.”

Kris Meeke is also looking forward to next year’s Circuit of Ireland being part of the ERC,
“It’s incredible and it’s going to be massive for Irish rallying. The Circuit is a fantastic event, a truly legendary rally and the introduction of the new R5 technical regulations will mean interest in the ERC is going to be huge. The Circuit in 2014 is really going to take off.”

Marty McCormack a past British Junior Champion and potential competitor in the Circuit said,
“It’s fantastic news for the Circuit and superb news for young Irish drivers! Junior Championships such as this are a great place for young drivers to hone their skills as well as shine through, whilst gaining valuable experience in European Rallying. It’s an ideal springboard to go forward into the World Rally Championship.”

New European Accolade for Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: November 1, 2013 10:30 AM

Top motorsport event the Circuit of Ireland is back significantly enhanced for 2014 with the announcement today that the iconic rally is one of 12 set to feature in next year’s revamped FIA European Rally Championship calendar.

Scheduled to take place during its traditional Easter Week-end slot on 18-19 April, the Circuit of Ireland Rally is being billed as one of the 2014 Championship’s ‘flagship events’. Subject to final approval by the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, it makes its return to the ERC roster after a lengthy absence.

The Circuit of Ireland will be the only UK and Ireland based round in the Championship. Route details will be outlined early next year but it’s anticipated that the action packed two-day rally will include some of Northern Ireland’s top tourism landmarks in counties Down and Antrim as well as locations in Belfast.

Broadcast by Eurosport, the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally is expected to attract in excess of 10 million viewers globally as well as thousands of spectators and team officials who will accompany the international competitors.

Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said he was thrilled that the locally organised rally will be back in business and at the premium end of the international rally arena for 2014:
“The management team as well as our 700 plus volunteers are extremely proud and excited to be part of a new look ERC programme. The world’s second oldest rally the Circuit of Ireland Rally has always attracted high profile competitors and our inclusion in the 2014 ERC programme will help draw some of the best in the sport to Northern Ireland.

Alongside other home grown sporting events, as well as the Giro d’Italia, the Circuit of Ireland is set to be an important economic driver for Northern Ireland in 2014. Indeed, it’s estimated that the event will generate well over £1m for the local economy as well as attracting many first time visitors to the region.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said:
“It is a wonderful coup for the ‘Circuit of Ireland 2014’ to be selected as a leg of the 2014 European Rally Championship.
“There is huge interest in this new series and the event will help raise the profile of Northern Ireland to TV audiences across Europe. Tourism Ireland will also be pulling out all the stops to capitalise on the opportunities that the rally will create.

“Through a well established working relationship with Eurosport, Tourism Ireland has ensured several stages of the event can be seen across Europe by Eurosport’s 125 million subscribers. As well as being able to watch high profile drivers battling it out, viewers will see the spectacular landscapes and beautiful scenery that Northern Ireland has to offer.”

As an integral part of the European Rally Championship the 2014 Circuit of Ireland expects to sign up a who’s who of international drivers and co-drivers. Top competitors being linked to ERC campaigns include Bryan Bouffier from France, Sepp Wiegand from Germany, Andreas Aigner from Austria as well as Waterford driver Craig Breen and Robert Barrable from Swords. Local drivers also likely to participate include Fermanagh based Alastair Fisher and former British Junior Rally Champion Marty McCormack from Draperstown.

Event / Club Website

Posted: November 1, 2013 10:30 AM






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