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Circuit of Ireland - 7-9 Apr 16

Posted: April 7, 2016 8:41 AM - 19390 Hits

Round 3 - 2016 Tarmac Championship
Round 3 - 2016 European Rally Championship (ERC)
Round 2 - 2016 British Rally Championship
Round 2 - 2016 Northern Ireland Rally Championship

Live Results: Circuit of Ireland 2016 (International) | Circuit of Ireland 2016 (National)
Results by: RallyScore.Net | Also available at: rally-base results
Live Video Stream / Event Website: Circuit of Ireland
Rally Radio / News: European Rally Championship (ERC) - fiaerc.com
Rallynews (by Brian & Liz Patterson)
Twitter: @FIAERC | @CircuitIreland
First stage each day:
Free Practice - Thu - 10:00
Qualifying - Thu - 12:51
SS1 - Fri - 09:51
SS7 - sat - 09:18

In Car: Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry - Qualifying Stage

Posted: April 7, 2016 8:41 AM

Circuit goes global on live internet television

Posted: April 6, 2016 9:52 AM

The Circuit of Ireland Rally is going 'live' and global this year. For the first time it will be available to watch around the world via the internet, as it happens, on the events own website, www.circuitofireland.net.

The rally, which is part of the European, British and Irish Tarmac championships, is to be streamed live with coverage from many of the special stages and from the service areas including end-of-stage interviews with the crews.

"I don't think this has been done on this scale on any rally anywhere in the world before and has taken many months of negotiations to obtain the requisite permissions to broadcast the Circuit of Ireland globally," said Event Director Bobby Willis.

"But more and more people are accessing their entertainment and their sport via computers, tablets and smart phones and we believe this is an important way to broaden the rally's appeal.

"Eurosport, will of course be screening the rally with highlights programmes each evening. In 2015 this reached over 40 million people globally and is an incredible asset for our event.

"In addition, there will be coverage from drones and from in-car cameras as well as live pictures and commentary from the Ards TT stage on Friday evening. This has proved so incredibly popular in the past."

Access to live streaming will be via link on the rally's website www.circuitofireland.net starting on Friday 8th April.

The programme will be presented by Jon Desborough and Trevor Agnew, with Seb Marshall, Gareth Stewart and Lisa O'Sullivan leading the reporting team.

Desborough is familiar to many rally fans as the commentator for both the World and British Rally Championship's TV programmes.

Marshall is Kevin Abbring's co-driver in the Hyundai Motorsport WRC team, Gareth Stewart is a popular Northern Ireland radio host and motorsport fan, whilst O'Sullivan produces the WRC Live radio programmes.

Agnew who is originally from Markethill, Co. Armagh is a former Production World Rally Champion co-driver, and is excited about the programme.

"Like the majority of the population, I grew up with the Circuit of Ireland, going to the rally for the first time aged 10. With the phenomenal entry for this year's rally, our live programme will allow us to bring the excitement to many more people throughout the world as the drama unfolds. Whether you are in Sydney, London, New York or standing at the side of a Special Stage at the rally, fans will have access to a lot more information in a new and innovative way."

The rally, which has attracted a record entry and includes European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz and last year's winner Craig Breen, begins on Thursday with the Qualifying Stage which is based at Antrim Castle Gardens and will be followed by a ceremonial start outside the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum in the evening.

The Friday leg features rural stages close to Larne and Ballymena and includes a re-fuel halt at the Ballymena Showgrounds. It also encompassing Glendun Stage and Torr Head as well as a passage control at the Dark Hedges and a re-group at Bushmills Distillery. The Ards TT Stage will take place in Newtownards town centre on Friday evening.

The Saturday leg will include stages close to Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, Dromore and Banbridge with town centre control points in Downpatrick and Banbridge.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on Saturday evening and will culminate in a special closing ceremony outside Queen's University when the 2016 winners will be presented with the historic Circuit of Ireland trophy.

Craig Breen aiming to do the double on the Circuit.

Posted: April 6, 2016 9:51 AM

Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin will chase back to back victories on the iconic Circuit of Ireland rally this week. The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver although competing in the 2016 World Rally Championship has pulled out all the stops to repeat his dream win on last year's Circuit. Driving a Citroen DS3 R5 backed by Lakeland Tyres, Michelin and David Greer Motorsport, the number one seed will take on his old European Rally Championship rivals as well as a whole host of British Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Championship drivers that will descend on Belfast during the week long activities.

A record breaking 77 cars which includes a staggering 38 R5 and S2000 cars will start the 85th running of the event. Consisting of fourteen stages run over 209 kilometres, the action kicks off with a short qualifying stage on Thursday (April 7th) afternoon where road order will be decided before the ceremonial start in Lisburn that evening. Friday the real fight gets underway when the cars head north of Belfast where they will tackle five stages that include the mammoth 31 kilometre "Glens" stage before a less demanding street stage around the Newtownards will wind the day down prior to the overnight halt back in Belfast.

Saturday (April 9th) is made up of a four stage loop repeated twice but broken by mid-day service. Classics like "Hamiltons Folly" and "Bucks Head" will thrill drivers as well as draw thousands to a spectacular finish to the rally. Craig is very aware that the competition will be strong and the car new to him but he felt he couldn't miss the opportunity to take another win on this dream rally. Doing everything in their power to stop him will be big names like Alexey Lukyanuk, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Keith Cronin and Elfyn Evans.

You can keep up to date with Craig's 2016 season by visiting www.craigbreen.com or www.citroenracing.com

Overview Timetable

Posted: April 5, 2016 5:58 AM

Thursday 7th April

    10.00 - 12.30 Free practice of FIA ERC priority drivers at Tardree, Antrim

    12.51 Start of Qualifying Stage for ERC Priority drivers, Tardree

    14.30 - 16.00 Optional Shakedown for remaining for non-priority cars at Croft Hill, Tardree

    18.30 - 21.00 Ceremonial Start in Lisburn (Irish Linen Centre)
Friday 8th April
    09.00 Service out - cars leave King's Hall, Belfast

    09.50 - 10.45 Stages at Cairncastle (near Larne), Knockboy (North of Broughshane)

    11.00 Refuel - Ballymena Showgrounds

    11.45 The Glens stage (31 Km, including Glendun and Torr Head Stages)

    12.50 The Dark Hedges Passage Control

    13.15 Regroup - Bushmills Distillery (here for 20 minutes)

    13.55 Joey Dunlop Centre Remote Service (Cars here for 15 minutes)

    15.00 - 16.05 Stages - Knockboy and Glendun

    18.00 Service Area at King's Hall

    19.50 Newtownards TT Stage starts

    20.30 Overnight Halt at Kings Hall, Belfast
Saturday 9th April
    08.00 Service out - cars Leave King's Hall

    09.00 Downpatrick podium start

    09.20 - 10.50 Stages - Bucks Head and Hamilton's Folly and Bulls Brook

    11.25 Banbridge Regroup in 'The Cutts', followed by Banbridge stage

    13.20 Service Park - King's Hall (cars here 30 minutes)

    14.15 -16.45 Stages- Bucks head, Hamiltons Folly, Bucks Head and Banbridge

    18.10 Finish ceremony and champagne spraying outside Queen's University Belfast

Northern Ireland revs up for 85th Circuit of Rally Extravaganza

Posted: April 2, 2016 12:55 PM

Top rally drivers from as far afield as China and Australia are gearing up for this year's 85th Circuit of Ireland Rally which takes place 7-9 April. Organisers of the Circuit are looking forward to an even bigger and better event when this year's international rally rolls into Belfast and other spectacular locations throughout Northern Ireland. Belfast will host the Rally HQ and Service Park with the King's Hall complex welcoming competitors, team personnel, fans and visitors from over 20 nations from Wednesday 6th April.

Fans will have several opportunities to see the rally action from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th April. The Qualifying Stage of the rally will be based at Antrim Castle Gardens on Thursday 7th April in the afternoon, followed by a Ceremonial Start outside the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum from 6.30pm with special guest Louis Walsh. Entertainment in Lisburn City Centre in the evening includes a free concert from 8.30pm with local star singer Flash Harry.

Friday 8th April features rural stages close to Larne and Ballymena and includes a refuel halt at the famous Ballymena Showgrounds. Friday's route includes stunning stages in the Causeway Coast and Glens region encompassing Torr Head and Glendun as well as a passage control at the Dark Hedges and a regroup at Bushmills Distillery. A special Ards TT Stage will take place in Newtownards town centre on Friday evening 8th April. Competitive rallying on the Saturday will include stages close to Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Dromore with town centre regroups in Downpatrick and Banbridge.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on the evening of Saturday April 9th and will culminate in a special closing ceremony outside Queen's University when the 2016 winners will be presented with the famous historic Circuit of Ireland trophy. 2015 was a hugely successful year with spectator numbers increasing by 7% to 78,000 and organisers anticipate another fabulous event with 2016 marking the 85th year of this iconic and popular family motorsport festival.

Event director Bobby Willis said,
"Last year 40 million viewers across the world watched our fabulous scenery on Eurosport. It's incredible how the rally has grown over the past decade to become one of the iconic events of Europe again. "I'm especially thrilled with the strength and breadth of this year's entry which includes last year's winner Waterford's Craig Breen back to defend his title. It's fantastic exposure for Northern Ireland and we're looking forward to an exceptional competitor line-up on 7-9 April."

Also competing are, reigning European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Alexey Lukyanuk, leader of this year's ERC series, as well as the leaders of the British and Irish Tarmac championships, Elfyn Evans and Keith Cronin.

The Circuit of Ireland is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) and is also a counting round of the 2016 British Rally Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.

For more information on the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally visit www.circuitofireland.net or follow on facebook and twitter @CircuitIreland.

British Rally Championship returns to the Emerald Isle

Posted: April 2, 2016 12:51 PM

The MSA British Rally Championship returns to the iconic Circuit of Ireland next weekend (8/9 April) following a 25-year absence, with the best of British stars going head-to-head with the best in Ireland and Europe over 200 kilometres of closed road action.

After a year's sabbatical, the revitalised BRC made a triumphant return on the opening round of the season, the Mid Wales Stages. With great anticipation and excitement at fever pitch, the new breed of cars, stars and classes met the expectation and put on an entertaining show to relaunch Britain's premier rallying series.

The classic stages as used on Wales Rally GB provided the setting for an event-long sparring match between Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin and eventual winner, WRC ace Elfyn Evans. The Welshman not only took the event win but leads the championship by 35 points after employing his 'Joker', which doubled his points. With Elfyn now having played his card, the rest of the field will look to haul in the DMACK BRC driver when the Circuit of Ireland gets underway next weekend.

Over 40 registered BRC crews will leave the Belfast ceremonial start on the Thursday evening (7 April) ahead of two action-packed days through the lanes of Northern Ireland.

The event will see the BRC share the stages with the European Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Championship, and leading the cars away will be 2015 event winner and former BRC title challenger Craig Breen.

BRC Championship leader Evans is the first BRC-registered competitor at car two in his DMACK-backed Ford Fiesta R5, with points-topping Irish Tarmac Championship driver Keith Cronin seeded at number five. Cronin is dovetailing his Irish exploits with a full BRC campaign in his Citroen DS3 R5, and the three-time BRC champion will be looking to get his title tilt back on track after a disappointing opening round in Mid Wales. DGM Citroen stablemate Jonathan Greer will also be on the charge in search of more points to add to his 2016 BRC tally.

CA1 Sport will descend upon Ireland with a three-car line-up, spearheaded by Ahlin and David Bogie in a Ford Fiesta R5 and Skoda Fabia R5 respectively. Both will be in the hunt for the outright win as they look to close the gap to Evans in the fight for the title. The third car in the CA1 fold will be for Tarmac ace Alex Laffey, who returns to his preferred surface after a learning weekend on the Mid Wales Stages in his Ford Fiesta R5.

Tom Cave finished on the podium on the opening round in his Spencer Sport-run Fiesta R5. The Welshman will certainly be a threat in his Michelin-shod car on the Circuit's bumpy asphalt, while fellow Michelin runner Rhys Yates will be searching for his first points in his luminous yellow and black Fiesta R5.

The Circuit of Ireland will see several homegrown heroes hoping for the luck of the Irish. Robert Woodside will campaign his Karcher-backed Fiesta R5 on familiar ground while the Moffett brothers ? Josh and Sam ? will once again be challenging for a top five result on home territory. Countryman Desi Henry gained a top ten finish in Wales last time out and will be hoping for more of the same on the Belfast-based event, while fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Neil Simpson will look to use his wealth of ERC experience to good effect as he puts the troubles of Mid Wales behind him.

Multiple MSA Asphalt Champion Damian Cole is a driver not to be discounted on his preferred surface as the Welshman guns for a top result in his S2000-specification Fiesta, while Euan Thorburn will bring his Peugeot 208 T16 to a happy hunting ground for the French marque. In the hands of Craig Breen, the 208 won the event 12 months ago and Thorburn is eager to emulate the Irishman's success on the two-day classic.

The Tiger Risk Rally Team will be hoping for a trouble-free event on the Circuit after a difficult first round. James Slaughter missed the Mid Wales Stages in his Fiesta R5 due to business commitments, while the highly-rated Martin McMormack suffered differential problems with his Skoda Fabia S2000 before the action got underway. Both drivers will be aiming for mileage and a solid result after the demanding 14 stages.

Max Vatanen, Jamie Anderson and Hugh Hunter all have limited asphalt experience but are not to be underestimated on the tough Tarmac tests. All three will want to build experience and take the fight to the sealed-surface regulars, while Ollie Mellors will run in the National field in his striking SORT Oils Proton Satria S2000.

In the fiercely-competitive DMACK Junior BRC, the battle is wide open with the top two in the championship ? Gus Greensmith and Sindre Furuseth ? opting to sit out the second round of the series. Leading the Juniors away in his Vauxhall ADAM R2 is local rising star Robert Duggan, who will hope to claim victory and leap up the table before the weekend is out. Team-mate Mattias Adielsson also has Circuit of Ireland experience and will represent a big obstacle for Duggan in the scrap for supremacy. Josh Cornwell played his Joker in Mid Wales and will look to carry the momentum across the Irish Sea, while Arron Windus, Blair Brown, Umberto Accornero and Nabila Tejpar will all be looking to add further points to their tally. Adam Bustard, Meirion Evans and Will Graham will hope to kick-start their championship aspirations into life on the Irish event.

In the BRC2 category, Matt Edwards was one of the head-turners in Mid Wales as he flung his Mitsubishi Evo 9 into the top ten overall, putting many more powerful R5 cars behind him. Edwards will have a fight on his hands if he wants to make it two out of two, however, as local driver Phil Morrow in a similar Evo 9 is tipped to be the man to beat on the asphalt roads. Roland Llewellin in a younger Mitsubishi Evo 10 will want to consolidate his position in the top two in the championship.

In the BRC National Rally Cup, Sweden's Robert Bloomberg will be searching for maximum points as he looks to close the gap to Osian Pryce who sits out the rally. Jamie Jukes and Donnie Macdonald will also likely be in the hunt for an NRC podium come the end of the event.

BRC Championship Manager Iain Campbell is looking forward to the immense spectacle that is set to take place next weekend.

"The Circuit of Ireland is returning as our 'jewel in the crown'. The opportunity for our competitors to take on the best of Europe and Ireland, head-to-head is going to be quite something to see. There was plenty of drama on the opening round, the Mid Wales Stages throughout the classes and there is no reason to think that it won't be any different next weekend.

The new-look BRC takes in seven events across the British Isles as it tours England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland before culminating on the iconic lanes of the Isle of Man. Asphalt special stages and gravel tests will see the country's best drivers in the best cars fight for overall supremacy on the best events, while the action will feature throughout the year on Channel 4 and BT Sport.

The final event will count for double points, while each driver has one 'Joker' to play on one of the first six rounds. Selected a week before each round, a 'Joker' can only be played once and will enable a driver to double the points scored on that nominated event.

Keep tabs on all the latest BRC developments by visiting www.msabrc.com or following us on social media: MSA British Rally Championship on Facebook and @MSA_BRC on Twitter using #BRC

EVENT PREVIEW: CONTINENTAL ERC STARS TAKE ON LOCAL ACES ON FAMOUS CIRCUIT

Posted: April 2, 2016 12:35 PM

The FIA European Rally Championship heads to Northern Ireland next week (7-9 April) for round two of the 2016 season, the classic Circuit of Ireland.

A fantastic field of 77 cars will take to the high-speed asphalt lanes, with a remarkable 38 R5 and Super 2000 cars taking part. Top of the bill is Craig Breen, returning to the ERC for an event he won last year, but Alexey Lukyanuk and Kajetan Kajetanowicz will be out to stop him. The event also marks the start of the ERC Junior Championship for 2016, the first of six rallies in which stars of the future will do battle.

The challenge

The Circuit of Ireland is one of the oldest rallies in the world, celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with a slot on the ERC calendar for a third successive season. The rally is run over challenging country roads to the north and south of the Belfast base. Crews from Britain and Ireland will also take part, adding to the depth on the start list.

This year's event will be fought over 14 stages and 209.56 competitive kilometres. The action begins on Thursday 7 April with a 4.22-kilometre Qualifying Stage to help determine the running order for leg one among priority drivers. On Friday drivers head north from Belfast for five stages including the rally's longest, the 31.21 kilometres of The Glens, before a short street stage in Newtownards. Saturday's route goes to the south for a loop of four stages that's repeated in the afternoon.

The contenders

Craig Breen (Citroen DS3 R5): last year's ERC runner-up is competing in the WRC in 2016 but couldn't miss the chance to return to an event he achieved a life-long dream on last year by winning. The car is new to him but Breen will be expected to star all the same.

Keith Cronin (Citroen DS3 R5): a three-time British champion, Cronin is also proving to be a master of Irish asphalt in 2016. Remarkably this is his first Circuit start but he comes armed with a DS3 from the same DGM stable as Breen and could well challenge his compatriot.

Elfyn Evans (DMACK British Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5): having twice finished on a WRC podium with M-Sport, Evans has made a flying start to 2016 driving R5 machinery and leads the revived British championship. He'll be a force to be reckoned with on his ERC debut.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5): the popular Pole finished just 6.4 seconds behind Breen on his Circuit of Ireland debut last year, so a first win on a true asphalt ERC round is a real possibility this time around for the defending champion.

Alexey Lukyanuk (Ford Fiesta R5): a year ago Lukyanuk arrived in Northern Ireland lacking sealed-surface experience but he's now won two such events on the trot, first in Valais at the end of 2015 and then on the season opener in Gran Canaria. What price on a hat-trick?

The challengers

Local fans will cheer on Alastair Fisher (Ford Fiesta R5), who ran in the top four on his last two starts on a rally his uncle Bertie won three times. Fast Frenchman Robert Consani is back in a Citroen DS3 R5, and held third on the Circuit last year when gearbox failure struck. After strong starts to the British championship, Swede Fredrik Ahlin and Welshman Tom Cave will be ones to watch in Fiesta R5s along with Scotland's David Bogie (SKODA Fabia R5). Jarom?r Tarabus and Raul Jeets begin ERC campaigns in Fabia R5s looking to improve upon eighth and ninth respectively on the Circuit last year, while Jaroslaw Koltun will be joined in driving a Fiesta R5 by fellow Pole Filip Nivette. David Botka, Federico Della Casa (both DS3 R5) and Anton?n Tlustak (Fabia R5) will hope for better than they fared on round one. Jonny Greer (DS3 R5), Martin McCormack (SKODA Fabia S2000) and Robert Woodside (Fiesta R5) are further Northern Irish entries, joined by Joseph McGonigle (Fabia S2000) from south of the border and Neil Simpson (Fabia R5) from across the Irish Sea.

The reward

A total prize fund of 200,000 Euros will be on offer to competitors in the ERC again this year. A sum of 20,000 Euros will be available at each of the 10 events on the calendar and be shared between the seven highest-placed eligible drivers in the final rally classification regardless of category. This year, all drivers that have registered for the ERC will be eligible as long as they are using tyres from one of the championship's partner suppliers (Michelin and Pirelli). In 2015, 38 ERC drivers earned prize money.

The class acts

The ERC is split into three categories: ERC1 for top-of-the-range R5 machinery, ERC2 for production-based models and ERC3 for two-wheel-drive cars. The Circuit of Ireland marks the start of the ERC Junior Championship for drivers born in 1989 or later and competing in R2 machinery on Pirelli tyres.

ERC Junior: Future stars begin campaigns on classic rally

A trio of factory-supported Opel drivers look to follow in the footsteps of Emil Bergkvist, who was the 2015 ERC Junior champion in an Adam R2. Marijan Griebel finished third in the ERC Junior standings last season and intends to go one better than his second place on this event last year. He is joined at the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team by fellow German Julius Tannert, who won the one-make trophy for the Adam in Germany last year. Britain's Chris Ingram also drives an Adam R2 after taking fifth in ERC Junior last year, and led the class on his home event in 2014 before a crash. Having placed between Griebel and Ingram in 2015, Steve Rokland returns in a Peugeot 208 R2, which is also the car of choice for Nikolay Gryazin who finished a stunning sixth overall on his ERC debut in Valais last year. lukasz Pieniązek (Adam R2) and Marco Cid (208 R2) warmed up by competing in Gran Canaria while Czech driver Dominik Broz returns in a Ford Fiesta R2 after his ERC debut on home ground last year.

Chuchala looks to shine again in ERC2

Wojciech Chuchala travels to Northern Ireland after starring in Gran Canaria, finishing fifth overall and dominating ERC2 in his Subaru Poland Rally Team Impreza STI. Having been the closest in class to Chuchala for the majority of that event, a win for Giacomo Scattolon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X) would more than make up for the disappointment of losing second place on the final stage.

Humar looks to lead the ERC3 contenders

In the absence of the top three ERC3 finishers in Gran Canaria, Aleks Humar (Oktan Sport 208 R2) could move into the standings lead with a strong result against the ERC Junior contingent in Northern Ireland. The four-time Slovenian champion was fourth in ERC3 last time out, while Szabolcs Varkonyi (Ritmus ASE 208 R2) was seventh and Joao Correia (Renault Clio R3T) was eighth. Laszlo Nemet (Arable Racing Kft 208 R2) and Renato Pita (Fiesta R2) will be making their first starts of the season.

Driver quotes

Craig Breen (Citroen DS3 R5):
"The Circuit of Ireland is very close to my heart and I really wanted to come back and try to win it again. My friends and supporters from Waterford and beyond were also desperate for me to do the rally and it is with their help that we have been able to make it happen. I love the rally, I love its rich heritage and I love the magnificent trophy which goes to the winner ? I want to bring it back to Waterford for another year."

Alexey Lukyanuk (Ford Fiesta R5):
"The Circuit of Ireland is a great rally and I have nice memories from last year, as it was my first proper Tarmac event. We learned a lot in the past year, but there's still long way to go. So we expect a thrilling and exiting weekend with best WRC, ERC and local drivers in our class!"

Chris Ingram (Opel Rallye Junior Team Adam R2):
"I feel the Circuit of Ireland will be the ideal place for my debut with Opel and to kick off this year's Junior ERC. The Circuit is a legendary event with some of the best stages in Europe, and an awesome atmosphere. I have some great memories from it, especially in 2014 when I became the youngest winner of the Colin McRae Flat Out trophy. After my first test in the incredible Adam R2 and with my new codriver Kat Becker, I'm confident we have a top package and that we can push for the title starting on the Circuit!"

On this event in 2015?

Craig Breen scored an emotional victory on an event he had dreamed of winning since he was a child. The Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 driver certainly didn't have it easy, though. Breen's fellow Irishman Robert Barrable was a surprise challenger, and won the first stage in his Ford Fiesta R5. Breen stole the lead on the next test but, suffering from a recurring problem with his car's pop-off valve that was forcing him to lift off the throttle to reset the system, he was only 1.5 seconds clear at the end of the first leg. Barrable duly reclaimed the advantage at the start of Saturday and the pair remained nip-and-tuck until stage 16 of 18 when Barrable slid off on a left-hander and over a bank. A spin on the penultimate test cost Breen most of his lead over Kajetan Kajetanowicz but held on to win by 6.4 seconds and claim the championship lead from the LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta R5 driver. With Robert Consani retiring out of third early on in his new Citroen DS3 R5 and local favourite Alastair Fisher (Fiesta R5) crashing out, Irish brothers Josh and Sam Moffett took third and fourth in their identical Fiesta RRCs in front of 208 T16 debutant Charles Martin and ERC asphalt first-timer Alexey Lukyanuk (Fiesta R5). Emil Bergkvist picked up a second win from as many events in ERC Junior, a fine eighth overall in his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Adam R2.

Craig Breen returns to ERC to defend Circuit of Ireland crown

Posted: March 24, 2016 11:35 AM

Craig Breen will return to FIA European Rally Championship action next month (7-9 April) when he competes on the Circuit of Ireland Rally, aiming to repeat his victory of 2015.

Runner-up in the ERC standings last year after spending three seasons in the series, Breen is now competing at the top level of the World Rally Championship in a Citroen. The French manufacturer and tyre supplier MICHELIN will support Breen's participation on the Tarmac spectacular, which is the second round of the ERC season.

Based in Belfast, the Circuit of Ireland is one of the oldest rallies in the world and will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year. It features on the ERC calendar for a third consecutive season in 2016 and was one of three ERC events that Breen won in 2015.

For his bid to take back-to-back wins on the rally, the 26-year-old will drive a Citroen DS3 R5 prepared by Belfast outfit DGM Sport, which fields similar cars for drivers in British and Irish championships.

Breen will be the second star driver from the WRC to make a guest appearance in the ERC in as many events, after Mads ?stberg competed on the season-opening Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingl?s earlier this month. The Norwegian had a narrow lead when he crashed out on the final stage of the first leg.

He said:
"My world championship programme takes preference this year but the Circuit of Ireland is very close to my heart and I really wanted to come back and try to win it again. My friends and supporters from Waterford and beyond were also desperate for me to do the rally and it is with their help that we have been able to make it happen. I love the rally, I love its rich heritage and I love the magnificent trophy which goes to the winner ? I want to bring it back to Waterford for another year."

ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley added:
"It is fantastic to see that Craig will be back in the ERC on the Circuit of Ireland. His win last year was one of his many highlights during his time in the ERC when he showed he is one of the best up-and-coming drivers, something he has already proven again since stepping up to the WRC for this year. I'm sure that, with the backing of Citroen and MICHELIN, Craig will be a tough contender even though he will be up against a very strong field of R5 cars. With his desire to compete on the event again this year and Mads ?stberg's recent appearance in Gran Canaria, it's clear that the challenging rallies that make up the ERC are attractive to some of the world's best drivers."

Lakeland Tyres Put the Wheels on Breen's Circuit of Ireland Dream!

Posted: March 24, 2016 11:32 AM

For 26 year old Waterford driver Craig Breen, 2016 so far has brought amazing opportunities, as he joined the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team, but one he didn't want to miss out on was defending his Circuit of Ireland title.
"It was an amazing feeling to win the Circuit of Ireland last year, it is such a special event, an event close to my heart" said Craig. "Despite my exciting new commitments with the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship with the Citroen DS3 WRC, I have a passion for the Circuit, and I wanted another chance to drive those fabulous stages. I'm delighted that we have managed to secure a budget to contest the rally in a Citroen DS3 R5. We had to dig deep to make it happen and Lakeland Tyres support as the main sponsor was literally a life-line to make this all happen. It's great to be involved with them, and of course five times Irish Tarmac Champion- Eugene Donnelly from Lakeland Tyres has been helpful recently in my career passing on some of his vast experience."

Now Craig will join the cream of the FIA European Rally Championship, on April 7th-9th in a DGM Sport run Citroen DS3 R5. Eugene Donnelly, winner of the Circuit of Ireland in 2006 and 2009, had initially looked at putting together a package to contest the event himself, but decided to help back Craig's effort for 2016. "I am delighted to have secured the deal for Craig to compete in this year's Circuit. I have been competing in motorsport for almost thirty years and I know how difficult it is to raise a budget to compete in an event like the Circuit of Ireland. It's been a few years since I won the event and the feeling of knowing my name is on the trophy is one of the things I am most proud of in my rallying career. It's a great feeling being involved with Lakeland Tyres as the main sponsor to Craig for the event. To be part of a team which can win the event is as good as taking part. I am also excited to be part of Craig's team on the rally advising on tyres and giving some technical support a role which I carried out for Craig on several European rallies last year." said Lakeland Tyres Group Manager- Eugene Donnelly.

It's all part of an exciting time for Lakeland Tyres, a company that has very much spread its roots from Fermanagh, with two new depots opening in 2015. Those new high tech tyre centres are in Mallusk on the outskirts of Belfast, and the other in Portadown to join the company's existing Lisnaskea and Enniskillen branches. Lakeland Tyres Managing Director Adrian Frazer has also once again shown his support for motorsport. "To be involved in the Circuit of Ireland in this way is tremendous. The event has really come to prominence again in the past few years and it's excellent to support such a successful young driver contesting such a prestigious event. We have other motorsport commitments in 2016 including drifting and motorcycling. There is certainly a passion for it within the company." said Adrian.

Keep track of the latest updates on the Lakeland Tyres Citroen DS3 R5 on our Facebook page- Lakeland Tyre Service, on twitter-@lakelandtyres and on www.lakelandtyres.com

Circuit reveals record entries for International Rally

Posted: March 21, 2016 12:02 PM

Craig Breen, the 2015 winner, heads a record-breaking entry list for the Circuit of Ireland International Rally which takes place on April 7/9.

The 26-year-old Waterford driver, who is now part of the Abu Dhabi Citroen World Championship team, will return to Belfast and to the FIA European Championship to defend his title as part of a capacity line-up which boasts an extraordinary number of the new generation R5 and S2000 cars.
A total of 38 cars in the top R5/S2000 category are entered in a rally which embraces the European, British and Irish Tarmac championships. They make up just under half the total entry ? believed to be the highest number to take part in any rally anywhere in the world to date.

"It is incredible how the rally has grown over the past few years, from the dark days of less than a decade ago, to become one of the iconic events of Europe again," said Rally Director Bobby Willis. "I'm especially thrilled with the strength and breadth of this year's entry which will see drivers from as far afield as Australia and China taking part.

"And to have nearly 50 per cent of the cars competing in the top R5/S2000 category is amazing."
Breen, who won in a Peugeot 208 T16 last year, switches to an R5 Citroen DS3 to challenge for a second Circuit victory against a line-up which includes reigning European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Alexey Lukyanuk, leader of this year's ERC series, as well as the leaders of the British and Irish Tarmac championships, Elfyn Evans and Keith Cronin.

"My World Championship programme takes preference this year but the Circuit of Ireland is very close to my heart and I really wanted to come back and try to win it again," said Breen. "My friends and supporters from Waterford and beyond were also desperate for me to do the rally and it is with their help that we have been able to make it happen.

"I love the rally, I love its rich heritage and I love the magnificent trophy which goes to the winner ? I want to bring it back to Waterford for another year," added Breen.

Kajetanowicz beat Breen to the European title last season after finishing second on the Circuit and the Pole is currently second in the ERC series after finishing second to Russian Lukyanuk on the opening round in the Canary Islands earlier this month. They will both be driving R5 Ford Fiestas as will Welshman Evans who won the first round of the British championship, the Mid Wales Rally.
The Citroen challenge is led by Breen and fellow Irishman Keith Cronin, a three-times British champion, who tops the standings in the Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac series after the first two rounds in Galway and West Cork.

The outstanding entry list also includes rising Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin, who is second to Evans in the BRC series, another young Welshman Tom Cave, multi Scottish champion David Bogie, Frenchman Robert Consani, 18-year-old Russian Nikolay Gryazin, Jaromir Tarabus and Antonin Tlustak from the Czech Republic, Estonia's Raul Jeets, Hungary's David Botka and Finland's Max Vatanen.

Ulster drivers are well represented too with Alastair Fisher, Jonny Greer, Marty McCormack and Robert Woodside all included in the top group.

Other leading Irish drivers, including the Moffett brothers, Sam and Josh, Desi Henry, Stephen Wright and Phillip Morrow, who are not ERC registered, are seeded further back and will start initially behind competitors in the ERC2 and ERC3 categories. These include the German Opel team of Chris Ingram, Marijan Griebel and Julius Tannert as well as the production class leader Wojclech Chuchala from Poland.

In total, competitors from some 20 different countries will be taking part.

The international event is followed by the National Rally which is a round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Championship. Derek McGarrity, last year's winner and a five-times winner of the Circuit of Ireland itself, heads the entry list in his WRC Ford Fiesta.

WRC cars are excluded from the international rally but the list includes a classic from the past, the Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez, and two of the newest, a pair of Mitsubishi Mirages.
The National Rally is massively over-subscribed which has meant disappointment for a number of potential competitors.

Rally Director Willis explained:
"It is unfortunate we have had to turn away so many entries from the national division of the rally. It is restricted to just over 60 cars and we have had close to double that number wanting to take part but we are limited by the period of time we are permitted to close roads."

Fans will have several opportunities to see the rally action from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th April. The Qualifying Stage of the rally will be based at Antrim Castle Gardens on Thursday 7th April, followed by a ceremonial start outside the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum and that evening.
Friday 8th April features rural stages close to Larne and Ballymena and includes a refuel halt at the famous Ballymena Showgrounds. Friday's route includes stages encompassing Torr Head and Glendun as well as a passage control at the Dark Hedges and a regroup at Bushmills Distillery.
A special Ards TT Stage will take place in Newtownards town centre on Friday evening 8th April. Competitive rallying on the Saturday will include stages close to Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Dromore with town centre regroups in Downpatrick and Banbridge.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on the evening of Saturday April 9th and will culminate in a special closing ceremony outside Queen's University when the 2016 winners will be presented with the famous historic Circuit of Ireland trophy.

The King's Hall complex in South Belfast will this year be the site of the Rally HQ and Service Park, where competitors and team personnel will converge over a four day period from Wednesday 6th April.

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7th ? 9th April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship. The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship. Last year, the Circuit of Ireland attracted almost 80,000 spectators across the three day rally festival and a global TV audience of 40 million.

The 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally is supported by Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI and eight regional councils; Antrim and Newtownabbey; Ards and North Down; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Belfast City Council; Causeway Coast and Glens; Lisburn & Castlereagh; Mid and East Antrim; Newry, Mourne and Down District.

Local drivers mark Circuit of Ireland return to Downpatrick and the Mournes region

Posted: March 16, 2016 11:47 AM

The world famous Circuit of Ireland Rally will be returning to the Downpatrick and Mourne region on Saturday 9th April. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are delighted to support the Circuit and believe it is a real opportunity to showcase the beauty of St Patrick's Country to European visitors and ensure they have an enjoyable time in such an iconic and historic tourism destination.

On Saturday 9th April Downpatrick's St Patrick Square will be the hub for the Circuit of Ireland from around 9am when drivers from all over the world will converge in the centre of the town for a podium start ahead of the second day of competitive rallying in this year's Circuit of Ireland.

Skirting the Mournes, the Saturday morning stages of the 85th Circuit of Ireland Rally will include the 14.5 kilometer long Buck's Head stage followed by the hugely popular 17 Km Hamilton's Folly which Dutch driver and now WRC competitor Kevin Abbring described in 2014 as ?This is how a rally should be.' The next stage, Bulls Brook takes in roads around Ballynahinch and Dromore before finishing with a mid-morning regroup in Banbridge town centre. The crews repeat all three stages in the afternoon which also features two loops of new stage, Banbridge before returning again to the King's Hall Service Park and a ceremonial finish in front of Queen's University.

Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said;
"We are delighted to be returning to this wonderfully scenic route in Mournes region. The area has been a hugely popular with drivers and spectators alike over previous years.
Mr Willis added, "My sincere thanks go to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for their support and enthusiasm for the event. The Circuit team are also very grateful to the local people for how they've so enthusiastically got behind the Circuit of Ireland."
Local rally driver and insurance business owner Fintan McGrady from Downpatrick and Ardglass competitor Davy Walsh joined Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mickey Ruane and Circuit Event Director Bobby Willis outside Down Cathedral to mark the Circuit's return visit to Downpatrick and the surrounding area.

Looking forward to the Circuit, Fintan McGrady said,
"The Circuit stages are some of the best in Ireland and as a Downpatrick man I particularly love our local stages, Buck's Head and Hamilton's Folly. I've competed in the Circuit of Ireland ?National' Rally for almost 30 years and it's a super event." Fellow competitor Davy Walsh who brought his Ford Mark 2 escort along to the launch in Downpatrick agreed with Fintan saying, "It's fantastic that our local roads feature in the Circuit and no doubt challenge the very best drivers from Europe and beyond.

Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mickey Ruane said,
"It's wonderful that the Newry, Mourne and Down area continues to attract high calibre events like the Circuit of Ireland rally. The Rally is a truly international event and an important tourism asset, bringing visitors from all over the world to spectate and compete. We are very proud to show them this part of the North of Ireland, is rich in history and beauty and hope everyone will enjoy the council-organised events and entertainment programme."

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7th ? 9th April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship. The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.

Last year, the Circuit of Ireland attracted over 78,000 spectators across the three day event and this year organisers anticipate over 80,000 visitors.

In addition to Newry, Mourne and Down District other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are; Belfast City Council; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Ards and North Down; Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council; Antrim and Newtownabbey; Mid and East Antrim Council and Causeway Coast and Glens.

SOL RALLY BARBADOS TRIP FOR IRISH VOLUNTEERS

Posted: March 12, 2016 1:14 PM

The Barbados Rally Club (BRC) is renewing its partnership with the Circuit of Ireland, one of the world's oldest rallies, which marks its 85th Anniversary this year. In association with the island's Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), the BRC is again offering two Irish motor sport volunteers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy the Caribbean's biggest annual motor sport International, Sol Rally Barbados (June 3-5).

In addition to continuing as a round of the FIA European Rally Championship and the FIA ERC Junior, Irish Tarmac and Northern Ireland Rally Championships, 'The Circuit' also returns to the British Rally Championship. The event has moved away from its traditional Easter date and will run from April 7 to 9; after a Ceremonial Start on Thursday evening, there will be two legs on Friday and Saturday, covering 210 stage kilometres (130 miles).

The newly re-launched BRC ? there was no British Championship last year - made a huge impact when it kicked off at the Mid-Wales Stages last weekend (March 5/6). There was fierce competition on the stages, Elfyn Evans beating Sweden's Fredrik Ahlin by just 17 seconds, with Tom Cave third, all in Ford Fiesta R5s; off-stage, a wide range of conventional and social media platforms followed the action closely, with coverage on terrestrial television starting at 7.30am on Channel 4 tomorrow (Saturday), then on BT Sport on Sunday.

With its inclusion in the BRC, The Circuit can expect to build on last year's extremely successful event, which enjoyed a record number of entries, as well as spectator numbers increasing by seven per cent to 78,000. It also more than doubled its global television audience from 15 to 40 million.

The prize on offer to the Irish volunteers, for which the two winners' names will be 'drawn out of a hat', includes return flights from London Gatwick to Barbados, accommodation and a shared rental car. As well as Sol RB16, the trip encompasses Simpson Motors Scrutineering and King of the Hill the previous weekend; all volunteers over the age of 17 will automatically be entered.

Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis said:
"We're absolutely thrilled to once again work together with Sol Rally Barbados and the Tourism Development Corporation. Two such different events joining together is a real partnership across the ocean. Sol Rally Barbados is such a fantastic rally, which is enjoyed by so many British and Irish people, and it's fantastic that we can continue this partnership. "This year the Circuit of Ireland will reach new heights with the added participation and media coverage of the British Rally Championship. To think that two of our lucky volunteers will travel to such a fun and exciting island over 4000 miles away is truly awesome."

Barbados Rally Club Chairman Mark Hamilton said:
"Our seven-year association with the TDC has helped us to promote our event, and Barbados as a destination, to the rally-mad Irish with tremendous success - we are two islands with rallying at the heart of our culture, so there is a natural fit. Motor sport is the same on both sides of the Atlantic - without our unpaid volunteers, our sport would be lost."

85th Circuit of Ireland Rally to start in Mid and East Antrim

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:54 AM

Seasoned rally enthusiast John Mulholland joined Mayor Billy Ashe and Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis to announce that the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally will begin its competitive stages in Mid and East Antrim Borough on Friday 8th April.

Celebrating its 85th year in 2016, the Circuit is one of Northern Ireland?s top five international sporting events and last year attracted a global audience of 40 million television viewers as well as almost 80,000 spectators ? many from overseas. With entries set to close on 15th March ,drivers will not be disappointed with the number of exciting additions planned for this year.

On Friday April 8, the first competitive stage of the Circuit will get underway close to Larne, moving to the next stage near Ballymena and then onwards to the North Coast. Ballymena town centre Showgrounds will host an all-important refuel stop at the Showgrounds venue. These first two crucial stages will set the scene for a packed day of rallying culminating in the Ards Town Centre Stage on Friday evening. With a fast filling entry list the 85th Circuit is has attracted huge interest from teams and competitors across the globe.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Cllr Billy Ashe said,
"It is wonderful that the Circuit of Ireland is starting its competitive stages in the Mid and East Antrim Borough. The Circuit of Ireland's growing international status and partnership with Eurosport will give the Borough wonderful exposure to a global audience. It will also be a significant boost to the local economy as thousands of spectators flock to the area and no doubt they will take advantage of the many attractions in the area."

Event Director Bobby Willis said,
"We are delighted to work with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The roads will be hugely exciting and spectators can look forward to seeing rallying at its best. Last year, the Circuit of Ireland Rally featured on 81 channels and in 22 markets and I think it's fantastic that the wonderful landscape of Mid and East Antrim will now be enjoyed by millions of fans around the world as well as the large numbers who will travel here to enjoy that unique Circuit of Ireland experience."

Veteran rally driver and businessman John Mulholland joined the Mayor and Bobby Willis to mark the announcement. John has rallied across four decades and plan to drive his most recent purchase ? an ex-works Skoda Fabia S2000 ? driven by current world champion Sebastian Ogier.

John Mulholland said,
"The Circuit of Ireland is truly one of the very best rallying events in the world. It is fantastic that the Rally will be incorporating some of the area's most stunning locations. I've had the pleasure of competing in the Circuit for over four decades and it just keeps getting better and better. For me personally, I'm particularly looking forward to competing in my new Skoda Fabia S2000 and hopefully it will perform well at each of the stages."

Competitors vying for the title are expected to include European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Welsh driver Elfyn Evans and Finnish competitor Max Vatanen, son of rallying legend Ari Vatanen. Top French driver Robert Consani as well as local stars Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher are also set to be on the entry list. Waterford driver Craig Breen, who has two World Rally Championship class titles to his name, aims to return to defend his Circuit title and will be competing with PH Sport Citroen.

This 85th commemorative year for the Circuit of Ireland Rally's allows the event to further expand and develop its huge international status. The Circuit is part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship, the British Rally Championship, the Irish Tarmac Championship series as well as a counting round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

The Rally will take place across County Antrim, County Down and Belfast from 7th ? 9th April. For full details on this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally, visit www.circuitofireland.net . Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland

Top International drivers give rally fans a taste of the action at Circuit of Ireland launch

Posted: March 9, 2016 8:00 AM

With just five weeks to the 85th Circuit of Ireland Rally, top international drivers Neil Simpson and Chris Ingram took a break in their preparation schedules and travelled over to Northern Ireland to help officially launch this year's Circuit which takes place from 7-9 April.

They were joined by the First Minister, Arlene Foster, who attended the launch event with a special video message of support sent by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Local drivers Brendan Cumisky and Fintan McGrady also attended with Circuit of Ireland Rally Event Director Bobby Willis and gave fans a taste of what's in store this year.

FIA ERC Junior driver Chris Ingram first competed in the Circuit in 2012 when he was 17 and at the 2014 event won the prestigious Colin McRae trophy despite not being able to finish the rally on the second day! At the 2015 Circuit Chris took third place and this year has ambitions to win the ERC Junior Championship.

"This year I'm signed up for a factory drive with Opel Motorsport and am looking forward to making a double debut with both Opel and a new co-driver, Kat Bekker. Kat is a superbly experienced and talented co-driver with an impressive record.

"We're both looking forward to some fantastic and challenging roads at every stage of the Circuit. It's a brilliant event and very well organised and also secures excellent television coverage."

Former British Champion Neil Simpson has been a rally competitor for 25 years and 2016 will be his third Circuit of Ireland event. The Skoda UK rally star is set to take part in the full British Rally Championship as well as several ERC rounds.

"The Circuit is a fabulous rally and I'll be competing in my Skoda Fabia R5. Later this year in August I'm also delighted to be taking part in ERC championship round, the Barum Rally in the Czech Republic - home of Skoda."

The Circuit of Ireland is one of 10 rallies in the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship calendar and will be the only round of the ERC in the UK and Ireland. For the first time in almost a decade it will also be part of the British Rally Championship (BRC). The Circuit is also counting rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship and the Northern Ireland Championship.

Last year over 78,000 people came to view the stunning stages across counties Antrim and Down and organisers anticipate the three day festival will this year attract over 80,000 visitors and spectators from countries worldwide. The event will be broadcast on Discovery, Eurosport and global partners, BT Sport, Channel 4 and Irish networks to over 40 million viewers across the world.

Speaking at Ards Arts Centre in Newtownards Town Centre, where the thrilling 'Ards TT Special Stage' will be held on Friday evening, 8th April, Bobby Willis said:

"I'm so proud and excited that we are launching this historic event for 2016 with the support of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and so many of our regional council partners.

"Right here in Newtownards and across locations in the fabulous scenic counties of Antrim and Down we'll be witnessing some of Europe's top drivers revving up for action over a three-day period. It really will be a hallmark event for Northern Ireland and a superb rally spectacle. "It's fantastic that rally stars Neil Simpson and Chris Ingram have travelled from across the water to be here today joined by some of our talented home-grown drivers.

"I'd also like to welcome BRC Manager Iain Campbell and David Gray from the Irish Tarmac Championship. The Circuit continues to enjoy huge support at both national and international levels and it's likely to be a fantastic fight to be first to the podium on the Saturday afternoon.

"This year we revisit iconic stage locations close to Lisburn, Downpatrick and Banbridge as well as the Ards TT town centre stage. But we are also taking in Antrim, Ballymena and the North Coast region featuring Game of Thrones locations and the Causeway Coastal route.

"For the first time ever we are joining two of the biggest and most outstanding Circuit stages - Torr Head and Glendun - to create one marathon stage extending over 30 km which will almost certainly test competitors to the limit."

Launching the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally, the First Minister Arlene Foster said:
"It is an honour to launch the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally, one of Northern Ireland's finest home grown sporting events.
"This world famous annual rally is undoubtedly Northern Ireland's most internationally recognised motorsport brand and as one of our key sporting fixtures, it continues to bring in large crowds of visitors, showcasing our tourism product and our outstanding scenery.
"With global viewing figures of 40 million in 2015, the invaluable exposure generated by the rally hugely increases Northern Ireland's profile as a place capable of staging international events at the highest level and contributes significantly to the development of the Northern Ireland tourism economy.
"I congratulate everyone involved for their work in keeping this premier rally at the top of the agenda for drivers, spectators and visitors alike and I commend Bobby Willis and everyone at the Ulster Automobile Club for their unstinting work to make the Circuit of Ireland the huge success that it is."

The Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said:
"The longevity of the Circuit of Ireland is testament to the esteem with which it is held by competitors and spectators alike and its reputation has been further enhanced by its status in the ERC calendar.
"2016 looks set to be another sporting success with stages in counties Down and Antrim. With stages at the foothills of the Mournes with jumps, to fast road surface and sharp corners thrown in for good measure, you would be hard pressed to find a more scenic backdrop anywhere in the world. And with these high speed stages being beamed across the world to over 40 million people provides the north of Ireland with exposure money simply can't buy.
"I know Bobby Willis and his team have been working hard behind the scenes getting everything ready for the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally and I have no doubt it will be a memorable one."

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Alan Graham commented:
"We are delighted to host the official launch of the 2016 Circuit of Ireland and be part of the build up to this prestigious and exciting motorsport event. In five weeks, here in Newtownards and across the countries of Antrim and Down, we will see some of Europe's top drivers compete in the 3-day spectacle of racing. It is going to be superb."

Fans will have several opportunities to see the rally action from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th April. The Qualifying Stage of the rally will be based at Antrim Castle Gardens on Thursday 7th April, followed by a ceremonial start outside the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum and that evening.
Friday 8th April features rural stages close to Larne and Ballymena and includes a refuel halt at the famous Ballymena Showgrounds. Friday's route includes stages encompassing Torr Head and Glendun as well as a passage control at the Dark Hedges and a regroup at Bushmills Distillery.
A special Ards TT Stage will take place in Newtownards town centre on Friday evening 8th April. Competitive rallying on the Saturday will include stages close to Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Dromore with town centre regroups in Downpatrick and Banbridge.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on the evening of Saturday April 9th and will culminate in a special closing ceremony outside Queen's University when the 2016 winners will be presented with the famous historic Circuit of Ireland trophy. The King's Hall complex in South Belfast will this year be the site of the Rally HQ and Service Park, where competitors and team personnel will converge over a four day period from Wednesday 6th April.

Live Stream - Circuit of Ireland Rally 2016 Launch - Today 3 Mar 16 2-3pm

Posted: March 3, 2016 6:41 AM



Live Stream - Circuit of Ireland Rally 2016 Launch - Today 3 Mar 16 2-3pm

LOCAL RALLY FANS ENCOURAGED TO SHARE THEIR FAVOURITE CIRCUIT OF IRELAND MOMENT

Posted: February 23, 2016 3:58 PM

Organisers of this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally are calling on the public to share their favourite moments from the Circuit of Ireland Rally to mark the event's 85th year. The Circuit of Ireland, which takes place 7th - 9th April this year, is part of the fabric of Ireland's rich motorsport history. Last year, the Rally attracted nearly 80,000 spectators and more than doubled its global television audience from 15 million to 40 million.

Members of the public who have spectated or volunteered with the Rally over the years are invited to share their favourite moments by contacting Rally organisers via social media www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland or e-mail moments@circuitofireland.net

Event Director Bobby Willis said,
"The Circuit of Ireland Rally is rich in history. My first memory of the Circuit of Ireland Rally was as a boy with my father recounting numerous stories about the Rally. I've been involved in the Circuit of Ireland Rally for several decades now and have heard many wonderful stories down through the years about it and those involved - funny stories, poignant stories, the sport's incredible fans and sacrifices made by drivers to ensure they could take part."

Mr Willis added, "We are really keen to collate some of these superb stories as part of our celebrations for the Rally's 85th year and would urge anyone to get in touch with the Circuit of Ireland office. We would love to hear from you."

The Circuit of Ireland Rally is once again part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship.

Jimmy McCaherty and Winslow Trimble were the first winners of the Ulster Motor Rally, the Circuit's predecessor, in 1931 in an Austin 16 Saloon. Since then, the Rally has attracted major international and local names including Paddy Hopkirk, Roger Clark, Jimmy McRae, Russell Brookes, Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen, Bertie Fisher and Austin MacHale. In recent times both Andreas Mikkelsen and Esapekka Lappi have competed on the Circuit and scored valuable points on their way to Championship wins.

The Rally will take place across County Down, County Antrim and Belfast from 7th - 9th April. For full details on this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally, visit www.circuitofireland.net . Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland

TOP NAMES IN RALLYING SET TO COMPETE IN CIRCUIT OF IRELAND RALLY

Posted: February 13, 2016 3:33 AM

Entries for this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally officially open today (Friday 12th February), with organisers expecting an influx of entries for both the International and National events, including some of the world's top names in rallying.

Competitors vying for the title are expected to include European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, last year's winner Craig Breen, Welsh driver Elfyn Evans, young Finnish competitor Max Vatanen and top French driver Robert Consani as well as local stars Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher.

Craig Breen is expected to defend his title. The 26 year old Irish driver already has two World Rally Championship class titles to his name and will be competing with PH Sport Citroen.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz was the 2015 FIA European Rally Champion as well as last year's FIA ERC Gravel Master and FIA ERC Ice Master. He was also Poland Champion four consecutive years from 2010 ? 2014.

Welsh driver Elfyn Evans is also in championship contention. Last month, he and his co-driver Craig Parry secured an epic victory in the WRC 2 Category at the Rallye Monte-Carlo in spite of two punctures.

Three-time British Rally Championship winner Keith Cronin, who is from West Cork, is also set to compete at this year's Circuit. Keith first competed in the World Rally Championship in 2013 and has been tipped as one to watch. County Tyrone driver Alastair Fisher, the nephew of the late Bertie Fisher who was a three-time winner of the event, will be hoping to follow in his late uncle's success. Alastair recently secured second place in the Galway Rally.

The 2016 Circuit of Ireland builds on last year's hugely successful Rally which enjoyed a record number of entries as well as spectator numbers increasing by 7% to 78,000. It's also more than doubled its global television audience from 15 million to 40 million.

Event Director Bobby Willis said he was looking forward to welcoming local and international competitors to this year's Circuit of Ireland; ?In 2015, we had a record number of entries which spanned 20 nations worldwide and we hope to build on that success. It has been wonderful to see the Rally attracting growing international interest and we fully expect the sport's best drivers to be competing in this year's event. Spectators can look forward to outstanding rallying from some of the top names in the sport.?

Now in its 85th year, the Circuit of Ireland Rally's international status has grown significantly in recent years. The Circuit is now part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship and also features in the British Rally Championship, the Irish Tarmac Championship series and the Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

The Rally will take place across County Down, County Antrim and Belfast from 7th ? 9th April. For full details on this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally, visit www.circuitofireland.net . Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland .

Entries for the 2016 Circuit of Ireland close on Tuesday 15th March.

Entries Open

Posted: February 12, 2016 4:35 AM

Circuit Qualifying Relocates to Historic Gardens Venue in Antrim

Posted: February 11, 2016 6:21 AM

The restored 17th century formal gardens and parklands at Antrim Castle Gardens will be the majestic setting for the 2016 Circuit of Ireland official Qualifying Stage on Thursday 7th April ahead of two days of competitive rallying around Counties Antrim and Down on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th April.

The award winning gardens alongside interpretative, community and arts centre Clotworthy House, will reverberate to the sounds of up to 80 rally cars, drivers and co-drivers from 12.30pm outside Clothworthy House, a former stable block and then family home of Viscount Masserene and his descendants.

The new venue continues the Circuit's tradition of using a significant and historic tourist attraction to kick off the qualifying stage following the highly successful Ulster Folk and Transport Museum qualifying and shakedown sessions in 2014 and 2015.

Organised in partnership with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, the Thursday 7th April Qualifying Stage will encompass a closed road free practice session in the morning with European Championship priority cars departing from Antrim's Loughshore car park and travelling on roads in the Tardree area before regrouping at Antrim Castle Gardens at approximately midday. Following the official Qualifying Start at 12.30pm, cars will leave at one minute intervals from 12.30pm onwards to undertake the competitive qualifying on the roads east of Antrim town then returning to the King's Hall Belfast Service Park.

Event Director Bobby Willis said:
"Our Shakedown and Qualifying stages are hugely important sections of the Circuit as this is the first opportunity for the international competitors to practice before battling for the fastest time and their opportunity to pick their start order for the following day's competition.

"This also heralds the start of an exciting three day festival of competitive rallying. It's so important to select a stunning venue of international importance to impress and win over our global visitors and media.

"The Large Parterre and Her Ladyship's Pleasure Gardens alongside the Yew Tree Pond and the banks of the Sixmilewater river will provide a wonderful scenic backdrop and will, through the coverage of Eurosport and other broadcasters, showcase Historic Antrim as a top tourist attraction worldwide."

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Thomas Hogg added:
"We are delighted that Antrim has been chosen as a destination to host the qualifying stage of this prestigious event. This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the outstanding facilities and services that are available within our Borough. I look forward to welcoming the competitors and their teams to the Borough and wish them and the organisers every success for a safe and enjoyable event."

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7-9 April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.

Circuit organisers will in due course announce further details on the rally route, stages and entries.
In addition to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are Belfast City Council, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Mid and East Antrim Council. Newry, Mourne and Down District and Causeway Coast and Glens Council have also pledged their support of the international event.

Entries are open from 12 February and organisers are expecting strong interest from a range of home based and international teams and drivers.

The Circuit team would also welcome new volunteers to help manage each of the stages and anyone interested can contact organisers via the volunteer page on www.circuitofireland.net.
For up-to-date information visit http://www.circuitofireland.net . Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland .

BANBRIDGE STAGES SET TO CHALLENGE CIRCUIT DRIVERS

Posted: February 9, 2016 1:17 PM

Circuit of Ireland Rally stalwart Kenny McKinstry has hailed the Circuit stages as the best in Ireland ? and particularly those close to his Co Down home town of Banbridge. One of Northern Ireland's most popular drivers, 62 year old Kenny has completed many Circuit of Ireland events over the years and has no intention of hanging up his overalls. In fact, he's relishing the opportunity of competing in this year's Rally which takes place from 7th to 9th April 2016.

Kenny who chalked up a recent win at the Icebreaker Rally with daughter Emma's fianc? Kenny Hull, joined Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Lord Mayor, Councillor Darryn Causby at the FE McWilliam Gallery and Studio to launch the 2016 partnership between the regional council and the Circuit of Ireland.

"Last year myself and co-driver Noel Orr took second place in the National rally edged out by winners Derek McGarrity and James McKee, and Noel and myself anticipate signing up to this year's event. Both Banbridge stages were hugely challenging and having home advantage didn't make the task any easier. We needed to do the same research in terms of pacenotes! I particularly enjoyed McGaffin's Corner especially as it was one of the longest stages in the Circuit and threw up bumpy fast roads, junctions, corners and twists!"

"We're really looking forward to finding out what event director Bobby Willis has in store for us locally in the Banbridge area and of course taking on any new stages planned for 2016."

In addition to the closed road stages in the vicinity of Banbridge, 'The Cut' in the town centre will once again host a special rally 'regroup' on Saturday 9thApril. To mark the visit of the famous 'Circuit' to the town, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council have planned a festival of family fun activities including stilt walkers, jugglers, samba dancers and rally themed performers. Last year thousands of visitors came to the town centre to welcome rally teams from over 20 different countries, including world famous actor Idris Elba, and rally organisers believe this year's event will attract even larger numbers to Banbridge town centre.

Welcoming The Circuit to Banbridge, Lord Mayor, Cllr Darryn Causby said:
"We're thrilled to once again have the international spotlight shining on Banbridge town centre as well as hosting two excellent stages in the surrounding rural roads. The area has many international connections particularly with sculptor FE McWilliam and the Bronte family, the Circuit gives the region the opportunity to highlight those links as well as promote our spectacular rural landscape."

Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said:
"The Circuit is delighted to be back in Banbridge for the third consecutive year. The closed rural stages near Banbridge are some of our most popular, with drivers year on year looking forward to the challenges as well as the fantastic scenery in the Linen Homelands area and the gateway to the Mournes."

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7-9 April and is one of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Rally Championship (BRC), the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.

Circuit organisers will in due course announce further details on the rally route, stages and entries.

In addition to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are Belfast City Council, Ards and North Down, Causeway Coast and Glens, Lisburn and Castlereagh, and Antrim and Newtownabbey. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Mid and East Antrim Council has also pledged their support for the international event.

Circuit revs up to a new Belfast 'beat'

Posted: January 20, 2016 6:59 AM

The city of Belfast will once again be a key host for this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally with organisers revealing a new home for the Circuit's Rally HQ and Service Park at iconic Belfast landmark, the King's Hall Complex, Balmoral. Famous for its boxing showdowns, pop concerts including the Beatles in 1964 and agricultural festivals, The King's Hall will play host to the Circuit which will be one of the last large scale events at the popular 1930's venue.

Explaining the background to the new move, Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said: "Belfast City is a key hub of the Circuit and it was important to identify a new top quality location to house our Rally Office and Village, Service Park and Media Centre and one which has easy access to all stage routes across counties Antrim and Down. "Titanic has been a fantastic site for the past two years but with further development and new infrastructure at Titanic Quarter, it was necessary to move to a different location to acquire the space and accommodation needed for the 1000 plus competitors and team personnel who will be based at the Service Park from 6th to 9th April.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed our partnership with Titanic Quarter and I would like to thank them for all their support, but equally the Circuit team is looking forward to utilising a brand new venue and especially one which has a historic connection to the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
"Indeed this is a return visit to the King's Hall as the venue played host to the start of the 1971 rally when Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford chalked up a victory. I'm sure this year it will be a fitting 'Last Hurrah' for this much loved art deco building."
Bobby Willis also paid tribute to Circuit partner Belfast City Council who alongside Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and the majority of NI regional councils, provides significant support for the Circuit which last year attracted almost 79,000 visitors to Belfast and other locations throughout Northern Ireland.
"With Belfast City Council's help we aim to make our legendary event even bigger and better attracting more spectators and reaching out to potential new visitors through coverage generated by Eurosport and Discovery Channel."

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson joined international rally driver Jonny Greer to launch Belfast's role in the 2016 event.
Welcoming the Circuit to Belfast, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Arder Carson said:
"I am delighted that Belfast is again playing a key role in this year's Circuit of Ireland Rally, and that the event continues to be a highlight in our city's calendar. I have no doubt that this year's event will be bigger and better and we look forward to welcoming participants as well as thousands of rally fans to enjoy all that Belfast has to offer."

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7-9 April and is the third of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship. Circuit organisers will in due course announce further details on the rally route, stages and entries.

In addition to Belfast City Council other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are Ards and North Down, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Causeway Coast and Glens, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Antrim and Newtownabbey. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Mid and East Antrim Council are also expected to formally pledge their support of the international event in the coming weeks.

Entries are set to open in early February and organisers are expecting another bumper entry in 2016. The team would also welcome new volunteers to help manage each of the stages and anyone interested can contact organisers via the volunteer page on www.circuitofireland.net.

For up-to-date information visit http://www.circuitofireland.net . Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland

2016 CIRCUIT OF IRELAND JUST GETS BIGGER AND BETTER

Posted: December 10, 2015 2:14 PM

Organisers of the Circuit of Ireland Rally are gearing up for an even bigger and better event in 2016. Following another hugely successful year when spectator numbers increased by 7% to over 78,000 and the direct economic impact for Northern Ireland was recorded at STG 1.8 million , the 2016 Circuit of Ireland will not only be once again part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship but has also been selected for inclusion in both the 2016 British Championship (BRC) calendar and the Irish Tarmac Championship series. It will also be a counting round in the Northern Ireland championship.

Now established as one of the top five sporting events in Northern Ireland, the 2016 Circuit will be the third of 10 rounds in the ERC schedule, the second asphalt race in the competition and the only UK and Ireland based event in the European Championship. Again, the rally will include the increasingly important ERC Junior Championship for drivers under 27.

New for 2016 is the inclusion in the BRC calendar which is the first time the Circuit has been selected since 1991 when it was won by the late World champion Colin McRae. To accommodate European calendar scheduling, the rally will move from its traditional Easter date to take place from Thursday 7th April to Saturday 9th April 2016.

The provisional list of dates issued by the ERC promoter, Eurosport Events, on 5th November 2015, followed a meeting of the FIA Rally Commission. The schedule will now go to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for final ratification when it meets on 2nd December 2015.

Welcoming the news, Event Director, Bobby Willis said:
"The past two years have seen the Circuit of Ireland growing in stature and reclaiming its legendary position as a world class event. It has been a fantastic experience being part of the European Rally Championship. To now be included as part of the British Rally Championship as well, demonstrates our ability to deliver an event of the highest professional and sporting standards." "Last year 30 million viewers across the world watched the various stages on Eurosport, its global media partners and the Discovery channel. This exposure is not only fantastic for Northern Ireland but hugely increases our attraction as an event for international competitors. We've already begun discussions with teams and individuals interested in competing and I know that the line-up will once again be exceptional. The Circuit of Ireland is now firmly established at the premium end of the international rally arena and we are really looking forward to a very exciting Championship programme."






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