Circuit of Ireland - 3-4 Apr 10

Posted: April 29, 2010 11:58 AM - 44512 Hits

Round 2 - 2010 Tarmac Rally Championship
Round 3 - 2010 Northern Ireland Rally Championship
Round 2 - 2010 Citroen Racing Trophy Ireland
Round 2 - 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland
Rounds 1 & 2 - 2010 Irish Evolution Challenge
Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Supporter Event

UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally - Thank you

Posted: April 29, 2010 11:43 AM

"This year's UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally has been a fantastic success.

All the media reports and competitor comments have mentioned how well it has run, with most of the stages running to time and being manned by experienced and friendly marshals.

The weather could have been kinder to us, but there were still huge crowds of spectators, the like of which have not been seen on a ŒCircuit‚ for a very long time. The general feedback from these people too, has been positive with stories of well organised and polite marshals at every junction.

With our family friendly events at the Dundalk start and the Banbridge regroup area, we have brought rallying to the people, something that was very special to me and has been received incredibly well.

As we all know, the Circuit of Ireland holds a very special place in the hearts of Irish Motorsport fans, and it has been a privilege for me to be involved with such a dedicated group of enthusiasts who helped to make the event run so well.

I want to take the opportunity to thank all the marshals and officials for the hard work and effort that you have put into making the event such a success this year.

Whilst I recognise that we didn‚t get everything right ˆ I believe that we made significant steps forward in improving the event and I hope to bring in several innovations in 2011, which we found difficult due to time and financial constraints this year.

To the competitors, who have supported our event, thank you, as well. You have all told me that you enjoyed the rally. Hopefully, you will return next year.

To the residents along the special stages, how kind you are for allowing us to close the roads. We all hope that we haven‚t caused you too many difficulties with this.

To the spectators. Thanks for 'Keeping the Race in it's Place'. We had so many compliments from the course cars and safety officials regarding your responsible attitude.

Finally, to our event sponsors, UTV Drive as well as supporters DCAL; Triton Showers; Banbridge District Council; Newry Council; Dundalk Chamber, the Park Hotel; KDM Hire; The Web Bureau and Kantar Media, can I offer my most heartfelt thanks for your support."

Bobby Willis


Posted: April 23, 2010 9:41 AM

20-year-old engineering student, Stephen Wright, had an Easter break to remember. A win on the Circuit of Ireland Rally, round two of the Fiesta Sport Trophy Ireland, gives the Monaghan native a strong Championship lead before round 3 in Killarney.

Wright felt it was probably one of his toughest rallies yet and commented afterwards;
“We got off to a bad start on the opening 2 stages with a strong vibration in the front right which although wasn’t affecting the handling, left it very hard to concentrate on the notes as well as hard to commit to fast corners.”

In service, the DGM sport team discovered a bent wheel but Wright still found himself holding an excellent 2nd place in the Fiesta Sport Trophy behind the R2 car of Stephen Baxter. He pushed on over the next 4 stages and when Baxter hit trouble on stage 4 Wright and Co-driver Paul McGee took over top spot. The tough stages took their toll on the Fiesta Competitors with all but two competitors hitting trouble. Stephen was left with a large cushion to 2nd placed Desi Henry after stage 6.

At the second service Wright commented;
“We knew we were leading all the Fiesta’s in the international section but had no idea of the misfortune that Baxter and Leonard had. We set off from service planning to attack again just in case we’d climbed a bit closer to Baxter and thinking Leonard could be hot on our heels if not in front of us.”

A front puncture on stage 7 saw Wright drop more time leaving his chances of a 2nd FST win hanging in the balance. Wright was set for maximum attack on stage 8 after the puncture, but a start line failure of the map light gave the young crew another headache they could have done without.

“We were really looking forward to the night stages all day and when the map light blew I thought we’d just have to drive through with no notes and settle for whatever position we got but all credit to Paul, somehow he managed to call every note just about perfect.”

Wright made it through the stage with a more than respectable time. The crew replaced the bulb before the final stage at which point, there was unconfirmed reports that both Leonard and Baxter had retired. As the competitors returned to Parc Ferme, Wright and McGee were found to be the only crew in the Fiesta Sport Trophy to make it to the finish. There was mixed emotions for Wright and McGee at the finish. Even with a maximum points haul and a €750 prize fund, the crew were not ecstatic about the result.

“It was strange to say the least, I felt like I’d driven a good rally, all problems considered but being the only fiesta to finish left a bitter sweet feeling. It definitely would have been nicer to have a couple more crews on the podium with me but I suppose it leaves us in a good position going to round 3.”

Wright continued his rally on day two and went on to claim an extremely creditable 15th overall in the International section and a convincing class win. In stark contrast to last year, Wright finds himself with maximum Fiesta Sporting Trophy points from the opening two rounds and with the next round in Killarney in the middle of Stephen’s end of year exams, he’ll be hoping to vent some frustration and get another strong result in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Spanwright Flooring and Lafarge backed Fiesta.


Posted: April 15, 2010 1:15 PM

At the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland 2010 VSM had two customers competing on the tough two day Easter Event. This years Circuit started in Dundalk and finished in Newry with the service area based in Newry.

Stanley Ballantine/ Donnacha O'Callaghan – Mitsubishi Evo 9
Stanley Ballantine and Donnacha O'Callaghan were contesting rounds one and two of the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge Ireland 2010 and had some mixed fortunes over the weekend. On round one their car’s rear diff stopped working on SS5 Doughary 2, while in second place amongst the Evo Challenge competitors and unfortunately they had to retire. On round two Stanley had better luck and claimed fourth in the Evo Challenge and grabbed himself seven points.

Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan – Ford Focus WRC

On the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally VSM had a bit more bad luck when Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan retired from second overall on stage two when the oil pressure dropped in their Airtricity sponsored Ford Focus WRC and they had to call it a day.

Next up for VSM will be the Carlton Hotel Circuit of Kerry Stages Rally on Sunday 11 April with Trevor and Kenny Bustard (Mitsubishi Evo 8). Visit to see all the latest news from VSM.


Posted: April 15, 2010 1:03 PM

This year’s UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National rally was of particular interest to Kenny Mckinstry and daughter Emma, with stages centred around their home town Banbridge.

With Kenny starting first on the road and Emma seventh, hopes were high for good results for the Mckinstry team. And true to form Kenny dominated the event from the off, while Emma was pleased with her pace throughout day 1, and while others encountered problems Emma and co-driver Kenny Hull had a clean run to finish the first leg in second position overall behind Kenny and co-driver Noel Orr.

“To be second overall at the end of leg 1 is fantastic, this is our first event since last year so we’re delighted to be back on the pace, we don’t really have any plans to compete this season but with the Circuit coming so close to home it was hard to resist!”

Day 2 started with clear blue skies, but with the stages still damp in places, tyre choice was going to be difficult, while Kenny Mckinstry was way out ahead in the lead, Emma and Kenny had to concentrate on a hard charging John Waring, just 29 seconds behind them. Emma opted for a safer intermediate tyre which turned out to be too cautious, after the first loop of three stages Emma and Kenny had conceded second place to Waring and now found themselves 3.4 seconds behind the escort.

With three stages remaining, Emma had no option to push all the way to the end in search of a family 1-2. But try as they may Emma and Kenny had no answer for Waring, conceding a further 9 seconds over the next two stages.

But on the final stage there was to be last minute drama for Kenny Mckinstry a mere two miles from the finish of the rally his Impreza caught fire, Emma was the next car on the scene and luckily the fire was brought under control and damage was kept to a minimum. Kenny’s rally was over, giving Waring the win and promoting Emma to second overall.

“We’re delighted to have finished second, but I’m gutted about the way Dad’s rally has ended, but fair play to John, he was on a terrific pace today”

Emma and Kenny would like to extend their thanks to all the sponsors who made this result possible for them with their support; Triton Showers, Kiverco Recycling Systems, Miller Oils and Tom Geraghty Tyres.

Alastair’s Amazing Circuit of Ireland Drive!

Posted: April 15, 2010 1:00 PM

For Alastair Fisher and co-driver Marshall Clarke the 2010 Circuit of Ireland Rally was a fantastic weekend of rallying. Their third place overall finish only tells part of the story, as they led the rally outright for seven stages and Alastair now lies second overall in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

The two day event kicked off with a ceremonial start in Dundalk, before tackling nine tough stages in the Newry and Banbridge area, including an 18 mile night time stage.
“We started off with two good runs on the opening two stages. It just took a mile for Marshall and I to gel, and then we were flying. When the rain came for the second loop of stages we were on the pace.”

Indeed by stage 4, Alastair had moved into second place overall behind the World Rally Car of Tim McNulty, but by stage 5 he was leading the rally now 8 seconds up on Derek McGarrity’s Subaru WRC car. On stage 5 Alastair set his first overall fastest time of the rally, followed by two more on stages 6 and 8. It was a truly impressive performance in the lesser powered Group N machine. Added to this, three second fastest times throughout the weekend and three third fastest times, it proved the pace of the young Co. Tyrone charger and his Gerry McGarrity prepared Mitsubishi Evo 9.

Alastair ended the first day of the Circuit of Ireland Rally 13 seconds in the lead from Derek McGarrity, with the WRC Focus of Gareth MacHale third, and Tim McNulty fourth following a puncture.
“We had clean runs through the first two evening tests, and then on the final 18 miler we maintained a steady pace. It was so hard to pick your braking points and see the mud in the dark, but we got through it with a good enough time.”

Day two, Sunday and six stages in the Castleblayney area, and blue skies dawned meaning dry roads for the rally leader.
“I suppose I was praying for rain! On the first stage out we dropped a couple of seconds when we run wide and got some mud stuck in the wheel, causing a vibration. On stage 11 we held onto the lead, but the conditions weren’t as good for us, and on the next test we dropped to second after collecting a puncture. We simply under-steered wide and clipped a rock and drove about four miles on the flat.” At this point Gareth MacHale closed in to snatch second, leaving Alastair a superb third overall at the rally finish.

“It was a tough rally, with challenging stages, and I enjoyed it very much. The rally ran well, and there was a good atmosphere. It was encouraging to see good crowds of spectators on the stages.”

The result was fantastic for the team, and a great follow up from the opening round Galway fourth place. ”Gerry, Keith and Badger as always put in a fantastic effort throughout the week to get the car sorted and this result is for them also. As for Marshall on the notes, he was just brilliant it was like we had been rallying together for years”.

This result also moves Alastair into the lead of class 5 in the Irish Tarmac Championship, with the next round in Killarney on May Bank Holiday weekend.

The next big event for the team is the Pirelli International, round two of the British Rally Championship.

Stuart Biggerstaff secures first in class and eighth overall on closed road rally debut!

Posted: April 15, 2010 12:57 PM

Kinallen's Stuart Biggerstaff won his class and finished in an impressive eighth overall at last weekend's UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally, round three of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.

The event marked the 21-year-old driver's maiden closed road stage rally, and he climbed an extremely steep learning curve to secure a top eight finish on what was a gruelling two-day event.

Biggerstaff overcame a number of obstacles during the 17-stage rally, but even before the Easter weekend spectacular was underway, young Stuart had already faced a number of issues.

"Francis Regan was going to navigate for me but unfortunately, about one week before the rally, he broke his wrist," Biggerstaff explained. "I wasn't sure if I was going to make the start ramp but thankfully Anthony Nestor jumped into the navigator's seat."

Biggerstaff entered the event with no intentions of any heroic charges. He took a mature approach, realising that it was essential to build his experience and arrive at the finish.

But even at a cautious pace, the tricky stages caught out a number of crews, including Stuart. He clipped a concrete pole during leg one, thankfully only causing some cosmetic damage.

Biggerstaff lost more precious seconds when his wipers stopped working but he took it all in his stride. The Hankook-shod Subaru stayed glued to the road, and after holding an early 28th overall, he had worked his way into an impressive 11th overall by the end of leg one.

"I learned so much during the first day," Biggerstaff explained. "I had watched a lot of in-car videos before the event to try to get tuned in to listening to pace notes. That definitely helped but it's a completely different experience when driving a rally car at the same time!"

With more experience under his belt, Stuart and the team decided to increase their pace on leg two. Top three stage times soon followed, and on stage 14, Biggerstaff was second only to rally leader, Kenny McKinstry.

The team were up to ninth overall, and a final push through the last stage may have seen an even higher placing. Unfortunately, the stage was cancelled when McKinstry's car caught fire, bringing a premature end to the event, but Biggerstaff had done enough to secure eighth overall and first in class! "I'm absolutely delighted," Biggerstaff said afterwards. "It's fantastic to get to the finish, and even better to get there in eighth overall, and win our class at the same time."

"Thanks must go to everyone who made it possible," Stuart continued, "especially my sponsors, and in particular Hankook, who kept us on the road all weekend. Thanks also to Anthony (Nestor) who kept me on the straight and narrow, as well as all of the guys who helped in service. It was a great weekend - one that I'll never forget!"

Stuart is now preparing for round four of the Hankook series, the Tour of the Sperrins Rally. The Maghera based event takes place on Saturday 08 May, where Stuart will once again face the challenges of a closed road rally!

John Waring/Alan Whyte seals surprise UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally victory!

Posted: April 15, 2010 12:55 PM

John Waring and Alan Whyte took a surprise victory at last weekend's UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally, round three of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.

For the first time in more than 10 years, a Mark 2 Escort driver topped the podium of a Northern Ireland Rally Championship event. But Waring only took control at the last gasp when Kenny McKinstry's dreams of another win went up in smoke.

McKinstry, navigated by Noel Orr, had led the event from the start in his Subaru Impreza WRC. By the end of the opening leg, he had amassed a substantial advantage of almost five minutes over Emma McKinstry and Kenny Hull.

That opening day saw a number of top seeds hit trouble. Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan retired from second position on stage two when the oil pressure dropped in their Ford Focus WRC. A few stages later, Camillus Bradley crashed out of the rally, and Raymond Johnston retired from second overall on stage eight.

Out in front, McKinstry has everything under control. Fastest on every stage by a massive margin, he could afford to cruise to the rally spoils during leg two. Going into the final stage, he was more than eight minutes in front, but then his Impreza WRC caught fire.

McKinstry's daughter, Emma, stopped at the scene to help extinguish the fire, and the stage was stopped shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, Kenny's rally was over, allowing a surprised and elated John Waring to claim the rally spoils.

Waring had been fighting with Emma McKinstry for the runner-up position during the second leg. Going into the final loop of three stages, he was a slender 3.4 seconds in front. But the Mark 2 driver stayed in front, and went on to lift the rally spoils.

Emma McKinstry and Kenny Hull claimed second in their Subaru Impreza World Rally Car ahead of Raymond Conlon and Darren McCague, who were rueing a 30 second penalty.

Mervyn Wedlock and Damien McCabe came home in fourth ahead of David Armstrong and John Rowlands, while Cyril Doherty and Graham Henderson were sixth and won the Sunoco Fuels Group N category.

Trevor Ferguson and David McElroy were next in line in Group N, sealing seventh overall, while Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor completed the top eight.

The event marked Biggerstaff's maiden closed road rally outing, and after bedding himself in during day one, he was really beginning to make progress through the ranks on day two.

A number of top three stage times saw the 21-year-old driver rise through the ranks, and he may have finished higher than eighth overall had the final stage not been cancelled. Nonetheless, the result sees him move into the joint Championship lead with Derek McGarrity.

In the Montgomery Motorsport Historic category, Alan Courtney and Jim Hill claimed maximum points, while Niall Henry won the Group A Cup category. Finally, Jonny Leonard and Jackie Donaldson once again claimed the M-Sport Bonus Parts Scheme prize as the leading Fiesta crew.

Round four of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship takes competitors to Maghera for the TNR Alu-Systems Tour of the Sperrins Rally. This year's event, which takes place Saturday 08 May, returns to closed road stages in the surrounding area.

McGarrity secures maximum Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship points at the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: April 15, 2010 12:51 PM

Derek McGarrity and James McKee have emerged victorious from the second round of this year's Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally!

The cross-border event saw the stars of Irish rallying descend on Newry and Dundalk, but it was McGarrity who emerged triumphant at the finish.

Sealing the win was by no means an easy task. In fact, it was only during the event's second and final leg that McGarrity assumed the advantage at the head of the field.

At the start of the Ulster Automobile Club rally, Tim McNulty and Paul Kiely grabbed the lead but their challenge was thwarted by a puncture on stage five. That dropped the crew back to fifth overall, and handed the number one position to production category contenders, Alastair Fisher and Marshall Clarke.

With the rain falling, Fisher extended his lead from eight seconds to 31 seconds from McGarrity over the following three stages. However, the day's final 18-mile night test told a different story, as McGarrity reduced the leader's advantage to 13 seconds.

It was the boost that McGarrity needed and when day two dawned bright and dry, it was only a matter of time before the powerful World Rally Car crew overhauled young gun Fisher.

McGarrity moved in front after stage 12, helped along when Fisher lost approximately 30 seconds with a puncture. That dropped him into Gareth MacHale's grasp, and one stage later, Fisher was third.

Tim McNulty was also back in the mix at that point. He was in very determined form going into the final loop of stages, but on stage 13, his Impreza WRC landed into a field.

Gareth MacHale and Brian Murphy were fastest over stages 13 and 14 but it was too little, too late. McGarrity's advantage was secure and he went on to reclaim the 'Circuit' crown which he last won in 2005.

Galway winners, Gareth MacHale and Brian Murphy, recovered from their day one misfire to take second ahead of Alastair Fisher and Marshall Clarke.

Championship Manager, Don Wilmont, said:
"Congratulations to Derek McGarrity and James McKee on winning round two of the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. They are very worthy winners but credit must also go to championship leader, Gareth MacHale, for an impressive comeback drive, and of course Alastair Fisher, who impressed everybody by leading the event on Saturday in a Group N car."

Aaron MacHale and Eugene O'Donnell's fine fourth place finish was enough to consolidate their third position in Championship points table.

The event also hosted round two of the Citroën Racing Trophy series. For the second event in succession, Marty McCormack and Dai Roberts lost out on victory during the final day. They had a substantial lead in the category, and held eighth overall, but took a wheel off their Citroën C2 R2 Max on stage 13.

McCormack lost almost four minutes as a result, handing the category win to Mark Donnelly and Paddy Robinson. An impressive recovery drive saw McCormack take second, just six seconds adrift, while Adrian McElhinney and Shane Buckley finished third.

In the Modified Challenge category, Mervyn Wedlock and Damian McCabe claimed maximum points in the M2 category, moving them to the top of the tables. They finished fourth overall in the National Rally, while Ferghal Allen finished 14th and topped class M3.

In the Historic category, only one championship registered crew completed the event, with William Todd and Noel Anderson claiming the spoils in their Morris Mini Cooper S.

Round three of the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship takes competitors to the opposite end of the country. The Killarney Rally of the Lakes takes place over 01/02 May.

Highs and Deflations for Andrew Bushe/ Emmet Sherry on Circuit of Ireland!

Posted: April 15, 2010 11:57 AM

For Lisburn driver Andrew Bushe, the Circuit of Ireland Rally result of 17th overall and first in class, his fourth class win on the Circuit of Ireland sounds like a fantastic result, but in reality it could have been much better, if fortunes had of stayed throughout day one. Driving his Hegarty Metals Citroen C2 Super 1600, Andrew and new co-driver, Monaghan’s Emmet Sherry were competing for prize money in the Citroen Racing Trophy if they could finish in the top 15 overall on the event.

After a distant second in class in Galway, after chronic traction problems with the C2, the former Irish Tarmac 1600 Champion was looking to turn his fortunes around on the Circuit of Ireland.
“Galway wasn’t good for us, but we sent the suspension away for a rebuild and found that it had been seized up. Unfortunately we didn’t get to test the car all before the event thanks to the very seasonal snow, so we went into the first stage not really knowing what the car would be like. Thankfully the car felt good, Emmet was working well on the pace-notes and we were really surprised to be fastest two wheel drive car on the stage.” After stage 2 the crew in the Shannonside Galvanising C2 had moved into 11th place overall, and after stage 3 had moved into ninth overall, amongst some of the Group N Mitsubishi’s in the slippery conditions. By stage 4, conditions had got very wet but further progress was made and they moved into eighth overall, a position they held into second service at Newry. “We had good clean steady runs on those stages, and I was really enjoying the rally. Over the nine miles on stage 6, we were only ten seconds off the fastest overall time, and I was happy enough with that.”

After service it was into two nine mile tests, and the 18 mile night stage as darkness fell, and temperatures dropped.
“We put on a fresh set of front tyres, the same compound for the final stages, but they simply didn’t heat at all. After two nine mile stages the tyre pressures hadn’t budged 1 psi in pressure, and the tyres were stone cold. We lost some time on the first two tests, but still held a very narrow two wheel drive lead into the long night stage.
” But fortunes turned for the worse just one mile into the test, when Andrew clipped a rock on a left hander, and with an immediate puncture had no option but to stop and change.
“It was my fault, I just turned in too tight, though I have talked to two other drivers in the top ten who clipped the same rock, took lumps out of their wheel, but their tyre stayed up, but it was my fault I shouldn’t have done it. Then changing the wheel in the dark wasn’t the best! It was demoralising as if we had of stayed in the top ten overall we would have won €4000 Citroen Racing prize money. To add to it when we got going again, I wasn’t concentrating, and slid between two banks getting the car wedged for a few minutes!”
With a time loss of over 15 minutes on the stage, any chance of a good position was gone, but the crew continued on day two to test the reliability of the car, and gain Irish Tarmac Championship points.

The next event for the crew is the Killarney International on May Bank Holiday weekend, and they will have to do some work to establish a good setting for the car, and try and find some more sponsors to help continue the series.

”I would like to thank Shannonside Galvanising, Hegarty Metals, Lagan Motor Factors, Sunoco Race Fuels, Citroen Parts Direct, Lester Engineering- Alloy Wheel Repairs, and All Graphix for their support on this event, and hopefully we will be in Killarney and Donegal to continue the tarmac championship.”

Second Citroen Racing Trophy Victory for Mark Donnelly / Paddy Robinson On the Circuit of Ireland

Posted: April 15, 2010 11:43 AM

For 18 year old Omagh rally driver Mark Donnelly it’s been a fabulous two weeks, as he contests both the Citroen Racing Trophy UK and Irish Championships this year with his Citroen C2. A victory on last weekend’s Circuit of Ireland, round two of the Irish series, came just one week after victory on the Bulldog International forest event in Wales, and with €5000 prize money from Citroen Racing for each round win, young Mark is understandably delighted. “It’s been a great couple of weeks for sure, and Robbie McGurk and the boys have done a great job in getting the car turned around from gravel to tarmac specification in one week. We were lucky at the weekend on the Circuit of Ireland, the result kind of fell for us towards the end, but that’s the way rallying goes.”

The Circuit of Ireland event this year was over two tough days, with the first night featuring a really challenging 18 mile night time stage, a stage which considerably changed the rally results sheets. For Mark and co-driver Paddy Robinson the event began steadily but rapidly, lying fourth of the C2’s after stage 2, before moving up to third after stage 4. Rain belted down for the late afternoon loop, but after six stages Mark was 36 seconds off the lead in third, and just seven seconds behind second placed Robert Barrable. The C2 was running well, but in rallying improvements can always be made.
“We had tested the car on the Mayo event, and I felt I had a good set up, but the muddier, bumpier roads on the Circuit were slightly different, and I need to make some more improvements to the handling. It’s a good car in fact that we are learning more and more about how to fine tune the suspension, which will hopefully help me in the future to understand how to make rally cars work better.”

The final loop of three stages on day plunged the crews into darkness and the dramas really began, even for Mark!
“The 18 mile night stage wasn’t easy! There was a lot of mud on the road and we got caught out on a tight left hand bend. I thought I had backed off plenty for it, but the back end of the car came around and we spun, and clipped a bank. It bent the rear suspension in the car, and we crawled out of the stage, and lost quite a bit of time. Robbie and the Motor Sport Service Team did a great job however and replaced the whole rear suspension in the next morning’s service.”
The long night time test had claimed second placed Robert Barrable, which let Mark into second and pressure from behind was eased as Shane Buckley also had an excursion.

Mark started day two’s six stages, 2 minutes 51 seconds behind C2 leader Martin McCormack.
“Really in this position all we could do was to hold onto second place, and we had a comfortable buffer to third. Then on the third last stage we passed Marty who was on three wheels! I thought he was out of the rally and we cruised through the final two stages. It was very close in the end, just 5 seconds, and if I had known he got the car repaired again I would have put a bit more speed on! “
So at the Newry town hall finish Mark celebrated his second Citroen Racing Trophy win in two weeks. It’s a result that moves him into joint second place in the series with the next round in Killarney in May, but the next event for the team is the forthcoming British C2 round, the Pirelli Rally in Carlisle.

Short Circuit for Breen/Roberts

Posted: April 15, 2010 11:40 AM

As the rally cars reached the finish in Newry this evening of the UTV Drive Circuit of Irelands, Craig was already at home after a very short excursion in his Kick Energy, Fiesta S2000. Lying in fourth place on special stage three his car aquaplaned out of control and crashed out of the event. Craig and Gareth did not sustain any injuries but there was some frontal damage to the S2000. Craig was devastated to be caught out by the conditions and for the second time in a week not to finish a rally. “We were pushing hard. The first two stages were dry but a little muddy in places and I was pleased with my times on both, but this stage (Kinghill1) was covered with water running across the road where we had the accident. As we left service I got reports there could be a shower out on the stage but we didn’t expect anything like this. There was a downpour just as the first cars entered the stage and the pace was very high, I was about 4 Km in, when on a fast section the car aquaplaned under breaking and from that point we were passengers.”

Saturday 3rd April, The famous rally got under way at midday with a ceremonial start at the Dundalk Courthouse with singer Jim Corr and other dignitaries waving away the leading cars. The action began in earnest at approximately 1.45pm, with the Triton Showers sponsored Doughary stage located north of Newry. The opening day was made up of two loops of four stages and the day was completed with a marathon 29 Km night-time stage.

Gareth MacHale seeded number one and championship leader was the first to take on the challenge of the Doughary 1, and his Ford Focus WRC suffered mechanical problems from the start, “The car cut out on a number of occasions”, MacHale reported as he entered first service in Newry. Tim McNulty partnered by Paul Kiely in the Subaru Impreza S12 B opened their event with fastest time (7:30.9). The pair were full of confidence after their West Cork Rally victory two weeks ago and looked to have carried this to Co. Down for the Circuit. Derek McGarrity who is a three times winner of the rally slotted in at second, nine seconds away from McNulty. Third over the opener was Co. Cork driver Daragh O’Riordan who was only on his second outing in his WRC Impreza. Craig held the Group N lead setting 7.46.9 and was in fourth, sixteen down on McNulty. The top five was completed by Alastair Fisher in the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9. On to stage two (McGaffins Corner 1) McNulty again topped the time sheets with McGarrity making it an Impreza one-two. Gareth MacHale was third but did lose another ten seconds to leader McNulty. Craig set 7:52.0 and was now in sixth as the cars made their way to the first service halt. In service Craig reported “The car feels to be sliding about but both stages were very muddy in places as there is a lot of cuts and mud has been dragged out after the recce.”

As stage three got underway there was a torrential downpour with hail stones and heavy rain making the stage treacherous. Craig only got 4 Kms into the stage when he crashed out. Both he and Gareth exited the car right away but there was too much damage sustained for them to continue, surprisingly it was Garry Jennings in the Lancer EVO 9 that was fastest with Alastair Fisher in second place on the stage. Rally leader McNulty was in third with Richard Cathcart in a Group N Subaru in fourth. Fisher’s time on the stage elevated him to second overall and he then climbed to the top of the leader board at the end of stage five as McNulty’s Subaru sustained a front puncture. For rally fans to see the Fisher name at the top of the leader board it rolled back the years as Alastair’s uncle Birtie is a three time winner of the event. Alastair went on to maintain his lead over the remainder of the Saturday stages and even held a thirty one second lead going into the final night stage. On the centre piece of the event the grunt of the World Rally Cars came to the fore as Derek McGarrity cut Fishers lead to 13.1 seconds.

Six stages faced the crews on day two and Fisher fought bravely but was hampered by a puncture on stage twelve. As the crews reached the finish ramp in Newry it was Derek McGarrity who took his fourth win on the event with championship leader Gareth MacHale fighting back from those early mechanical problems to secure second overall and a gallant Fisher taking the third place on the podium.

Craig’s next championship outing will be the second round of the British Rally Championship on the Pirelli International Rally on the 23rd and 24th of April. Before that however Craig will take the Wheel of a Ford Fiesta ST for WRC Rally Turkey (16th – 18th April). There will be more news on this event over the coming weeks.

More Details:

Evolution Challenge Report

Posted: April 15, 2010 11:08 AM

Easter weekend’s Circuit of Ireland Rally produced three winners for the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland: John McGlaughlin and co-driver Crawford Henderson won Saturday’s round one, Brendan Cumiskey/Conor Foley won Sunday’s round two and, with awards for the weekend presented on aggregate scores from both days, Neil McCance/Sean Ferris took the overall honours having recorded two second places and the highest number of fastest stage times.

Round one – Saturday 3rd April

This year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally started in Dundalk at midday on Saturday, with the first day – and round one of the Evolution Challenge - featuring four stages ran twice, all of them north of the service area in Newry. These were followed by SS1 and SS2 joined together to form SS9, an 18-mile run in darkness.

McCance started how he finished last year, the 2009 Evo Challenge Ireland Champion and co-driver Ferris setting the fastest times on stages one and two and returning to Newry for the first service halt of the day with a lead of nearly 40 seconds. Albeit with an intermittent misfire in their brand new Evo IX, McGlaughlin/Henderson were second and relieved that their team were able to fix the problem at the service halt.

In third place and only one second behind were Evo Challenge newcomers Sam Moffett/James O’Reilly, who admitted they were still getting used to their Evo. They were pursued by Stanley Ballantine – accompanied by 2009 Evo Challenge Ireland Co-driver Champion Donacha O’Callaghan - who were just four seconds further back.

Then came Cumiskey/Foley, who were concerned about the effectiveness of their car’s brakes, followed by Geoff McMahon/Rob Graham who worryingly had their car’s steering column come loose when the brackets sheared on SS2. Wille Mavitty/Brian Daniels were next and finding it difficult to get grip in the conditions. In fact, all drivers reported that the stages were extremely slippery, the intermittent rain coupled with the winery conditions during the week leading up to the event had made the roads more treacherous than usual, meaning that tyre choice was critical.

With their car back to 100% and now on wet-pattern Pirellis, McMahon/Graham were the quickest Evo on SS3. Then, on the next stage, the lead changed when McCance/Ferris slid up a bank and punctured their car’s nearside rear tyre. Deciding to drive through the remainder of the stage rather than change the wheel, they went on to lose around one and a half minutes, which meant that McGlaughlin/Henderson now held the advantage by just over a minute.

Also having problems were Moffett/O’Reilly, when their car’s turbo started to detach itself from the manifold and then the wiring from a diff-sensor caused a few concerns. However, things were worse for Ballantine/O’Callaghan, when their car’s rear diff stopped working completely and they became the first retirement from the Mitsubishi field.

With one loop and three stages left to go – including the night-time run - McCance/Ferris knew that unless McGlaughlin/Henderson had problems, then they were best to consolidate their safe second place, which they did. Cumiskey held on to third and, in a last stage dash, McMahon/Graham claimed fourth ahead of Moffett/O’Reilly and Mavitty/Daniels.

“I’m both pleased and relieved to win the first round of the Evo Challenge”, said McGlaughlin at the finish. “Without any time to test the new car and having not done a rally for eight months, it all took a bit of getting used to, but with others having problems we were able to keep ahead. It's a great start to the season.”

Round one results
1 John McGlaughlin (Cookstown)/Crawford Henderson (Magherafelt) 1:29:01.8
2 Neil McCance (Comber)/Sean Ferris (Omagh) 1:31:06.7
3 Brendan Cumiskey (Dundalk)/Conor Foley (Ballinode) 1:32:37.3
4 Geoff McMahon (Armagh)/Robert Graham (Armagh) 1:33:39.1
5 Sam Moffett (Monaghan)/James O’Reilly(Monaghan) 1:33:48.1
6 Willie Mavitty (Eniskillen)/Brian Daniels (Kilmeaden) 1:34:53.8

SS5 Stanley Ballentine (Strabane)/Donnacha O’Callaghan (Mallow) - Rear Differential

Round 2 – Sunday 5th April

Sunday’s stages featured two loops of the same three stages, two of which were south of the border in the Republic. Once again, McCance/Ferris took the lead after SS1, but it was Cumiskey/Foley who went quickest on SS2.

For McGlaughlin/Henderson, Sunday was not going to be a repeat of Saturday as the intermittent misfire returned  - almost right from the start - and then a blown turbo in SS2 slowed them even further. However, for McCance/Ferris it was certainly a case of deja-vu, when they collected another nearside rear puncture on SS3, this time losing 30 seconds in the process.

With Cumiskey/Foley revitalised with fully operational brakes, they were only three seconds behind McCance/Ferris after SS2 and therefore surged into the lead by over half-a-minute as crews entered the first service halt of the day after stage three. Moffett/O’Reilly had fixed their Saturday problems and were going well in third, with Ballentine/O’Callaghan in fourth, their return to the Evo Challenge field made possible by the James Foley Rallysport team who had replaced the broken differential during the overnight halt.

However, it was a frustrating day for McMahon/Graham, when suspected fuel pump problems meant that their engine was not running as it should and even cutting out completely in some of the stages. But for Mavitty/Daniels things were not going their way, having gone up a verge on a slippery left-hander the oil cooler was damaged by a protruding rock and they had no choice but to retire.

It was also nearly game over for MGlaughlin/Henderson, but after changing their car’s turbo and exiting the service area with just one second to spare, they continued for the remaining three stages in order to get more points on the board.

Although clawing back a few seconds from the leaders in the final loop, McCance//Ferris could not make up the lost time and settled for their second - second place of the weekend, with Cumiskey/Foley delighted to be back on the top step of the Evo Challenge podium for the first time for nearly two years. Moffett/O’Reilly held on to take a fine third, with Ballantine/O’Callaghan fourth and McMahon/Graham fifth and just relieved to make it to the finish.

“Once the car was back to 100% everything else clicked into place”, said Cumiskey. “I really enjoyed today and it’s good to know that I haven’t lost too much pace having not rallied for so long.”

Taking the aggregate scores for the weekend into account, McCance/Ferris and Cumiskey/Foley each scored 20 points, but McCance/Ferris took the honours as they recorded more fastest stage times. In the same way, McGlaughlin/Henderson ended their weekend third on aggregate.

“To be honest, it wasn’t the weekend I was hoping for”, said McCance. “However, to have two punctures and to come away with two second places, a win on aggregate and be equal first in the championship can’t be too bad. It puts us in a good position for the start of the season.”

Round two results
1 Brendan Cumiskey (Dundalk)/Conor Foley (Ballinode) 53:52.2
2 Neil McCance (Comber)/Sean Ferris (Omagh) 54:17.5
3 Sam Moffett (Monaghan)/James O’Reilly(Monaghan) 54:40.1
4 Stanley Ballentine (Strabane)/Donnacha O’Callaghan (Mallow) 54:58.3
5 Geoff McMahon (Armagh)/Robert Graham (Armagh) 56:37.5
6 John McGlaughlin (Cookstown)/Crawford Henderson (Magherafelt) 58:38.8

SS3 Willie Mavitty (Eniskillen)/Brian Daniels (Kilmeaden) - Oil Cooler

The third round of the 2010 Irish Evolution Challenge is a one-day National status event, the Carlow Stages making its debut in the Mitsubishi series calendar on 9th May.

For the first time this season, the winner of the Evolution Challenge in each of the three countries it takes place, UK, Ireland and Sweden, will win the same prize: A supported drive in the FxPro Rally Cyprus, the final round of the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge). Then, whichever of the three teams are first home on this event, will be crowned European Evolution Challenge Champions.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland is supported by: Mitsubishi Motors, Pirelli tyres, Sunoco fuels, JRM, Cyprus Automobile Association, Fairways Mitsubishi, Donnelly Group, James Foley Rallysport, Speedline Corse wheels, Murray Motorsport, CL brake pads, Sparco racewear, Pacenotes and PIAA lights - who sponsor the junior award for under 25-year old drivers.

Full Results

Posted: April 15, 2010 10:50 AM

1 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC) 2:15:27.2
2 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC) 2:16:00.7
3 Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:16:16.3
4 Aaron MacHale/Eugene O'Donnell (Ford Focus WRC) 2:20:59.5
5 Daragh O'Riordan/Tony McDaid (Subaru Impreza WRC) 2:21:42.4
6 Neil McCance/Sean Ferris (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:25:24.2
7 Brendan Cumiskey/Conor Foley (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:26:29.5
8 Alan Ring/Adrian Deasy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:28:02.0
9 Sam Moffett/James O'Reilly (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:28:27.7
10 John McGlaughlin/Crawford Henderson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN) 2:30:10.6

SS1-4 Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS5-11 Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN)
SS12-15 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC)

SS1 Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS2 Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS3 Garry Jennings/David Moynihan (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN)
SS4 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS5 Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN)
SS6 Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN)
SS7 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC)
SS8 Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN)
SS9 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC)
SS10 Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS11 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC)
SS12 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS13 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC)
SS14 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC)
SS15 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC)

1 John Waring/Alan Whyte (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h11m31.1s
2 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Subaru Impreza WRC) 2h11m43.4s
3 Raymond Conlon/Darren McCague (Toyota Corolla RWD) 2h12m04.9s
4 Mervyn Wedlock/Damien McCabe (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h13m32.3s
5 David Armstrong/John Rowlands (Ford Escort G3) 2h13m55.1s
6 Cyril Doherty/Graham Henderson (Subaru Impreza) 2h14m52.7s
7 Trevor Ferguson/David McElroy (Subaru Impreza) 2h14m56.8s
8 Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor (Subaru Impreza WRC) 2h15m14.4s
9 Geoffrey Dolan/Connor Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam) 2h15m14.5s
10 Chris Simms/Hugh McKenna (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h15m16.2s

Arron MacHale/Eugene O'Donnell's 'Moment' on SS1

Posted: April 15, 2010 10:38 AM

Photos: M. Schayer Rally Photography

Border counties all geared up for the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: April 2, 2010 2:39 PM

Thousands of rally fans are expected to descend upon Dundalk, Banbridge and Newry and the surrounding areas this weekend as the 74th UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland takes to the roads.

There are lots of opportunities for fans to see the high-speed cars during each of the 15 stages of the world’s second oldest rally which takes place across 270km of some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland.

The ceremonial start takes place at the Courthouse at Earls Street in Dundalk on Saturday lunchtime with crowds expected to gather to see the cars from around 11am before the first car is waved off at 12.30pm.

The town will be celebrating the start of the event with a Rally Show in the Market Square. Attractions will include face painting, bouncy castles, a Rally Simulator, music and live reports from radio station LMFM. On Saturday afternoon spectators will be able to see the rally south of Banbridge on roads in areas including Loughbrickland, Creevy, Poyntzpass, Jerrettspass and near Bessbrook.

Drivers on the gruelling two-day event will take a rest break in Solitude Park in Banbridge around 4.30pm on Saturday.

This will provide an opportunity for the public to meet and greet the drivers, view the powerful rally cars as well as seeing the 2010 Dakar winning VW Touareg, on its first visit anywhere in the UK or Ireland. The Touareg will act as a zero car at the event, opening up the road for rally cars.

Later the drivers will embark on an 18-mile marathon night stage which takes place south of Banbridge on Saturday night through the Kingsmill, Tyrone Ditches and Glaskermore areas.

On Sunday the Circuit moves to Newry where stages will take place near Castleblayney and Crossmaglen at Fincairn Hill, Coolcair and Cornoonagh Hill.

Cars will arrive back at Carnbane Industrial estate in Newry in the afternoon before the winner takes to the podium outside Newry Town Hall around 5.15pm.

Roads will close around one hour before the stages are due to start.

Now boasting IRC Supporter Event status, in a major coup for the organisers of the world’s second oldest rally, the eyes of the rallying world will be on competitors and organisers this weekend.

The Circuit plays host to a number of championships including the second round of the hotly contested Citroen Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

Spectators are asked to follow Marshal’s instructions for their own safety.

A full entry list and precise maps for the locations of each of the 15 stages are available in the Circuit of Ireland programmes which can be purchased from retailers in the area before and during the event.

Evolution Challenge gets set to start its third season in Ireland.

Posted: April 1, 2010 3:38 PM

The Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland kicks off its third consecutive season this weekend with the Circuit of Ireland Rally, the event hosting round one on Saturday and round two on Sunday of the high-profile one-make series for Group N (Production Class) Lancer Evolutions.

This season sees the Evolution Challenge feature eight rounds over six top-quality asphalt rallies, with a double-header taking place at the beginning and end of the season. Series organisers are delighted to report that, even though details for the championship were released later than anticipated due to an issue that delayed final sign-off of the regulations, registrations are up on last year.

Last year's Champion Driver Neil McCance, with co-driver Sean Ferris, will be making a return to the Mitsubishi Championship and is therefore aiming to defend his title.
For McCance, this will be his seventh consecutive season in the Evolution Challenge, having previously contested the UK-based series from 2004 to 2008.

Also returning to the Evo Challenge fold is 2008 Champion Driver Brendan Cumiskey.
Having only entered two rounds last year, the Dundalk based businessman hopes that more outings will be on the cards for this season, especially if he and co-driver Conor Foley can post a good result this weekend on roads that are relatively local.

Making his Mitsubishi series debut is Sam Moffett. Although this is his first full season in a four-wheel drive car, he and co-driver James O’Reilly will be a crew to look out for and may well be in with a shot of a podium finish this weekend.

After a great showing last year, John McGlaughlin/Crawford Henderson are embarking on a full season this time and, with a brand new Evo IX at their disposal, they are another crew who will be mounting a serious assault for the title in 2010.

Returning to the Challenge for his third season is Stanley Ballentine. He will again be partnered by 2009 Champion Co-driver Donnacha O’Callaghan who is eager to retain his hard-earned title.

Other previous Evo Challenge competitors coming back for more are Willie Mavitty, who showed great potential with a series of impressive runs last year and Geoff McMahon/Robert Graham who are hoping to compete in more rallies this season, whilst there is no doubting the commitment of Galway-born Liam Egan, who will again be making the trip from his current home in New York to compete this year.

The Circuit of Ireland is understood to be the second-oldest rally in the world, with many great names listed on its 79-year roll-of-honour. In keeping with tradition, this year's event will span the north-south border, starting in Dundalk town centre on Easter Saturday at midday and featuring nine stages, including an 18-mile night-time run before the overnight halt. A further six stages follow on Sunday and, after covering a total of 140 competitive miles over both days, the rally finishes in Newry at 4.30 pm.

As announced recently, for the first time this season, the winner of the Evolution Challenge in each of the three countries it takes place, UK, Ireland and Sweden, will win the same prize: A supported drive in the FxPro Rally Cyprus, the final round of the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge). Then, whichever of the three teams are first home on this event, will be crowned European Evolution Challenge Champions.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland is supported by:
Mitsubishi Motors, Pirelli tyres, Sunoco fuels, JRM, Cyprus Automobile Association, Fairways Mitsubishi, Donnelly Group, James Foley Rallysport, Speedline Corse wheels, Murray Motorsport, CL brake pads, Sparco racewear, Pacenotes and PIAA lights - who sponsor the junior award for under 25-year old drivers. Evolution Challenge entries

11 Neil McCance (Comber)/Sean Ferris (Omagh)
12 John McGlaughlin (Cookstown)/Crawford Henderson (Magherafelt)
14 Brendan Cumiskey (Dundalk)/Conor Foley (Ballinode)
17 Sam Moffett (Monaghan)/James O'Reilly
29 Stanley Ballentine (Strabane)/Donnacha O'Callaghan (Mallow)
30 Geoff McMahon (Armagh)/Robert Graham (Armagh)
32 Willie Mavitty (Eniskillen)/Brian Daniels
36 Liam Egan (New York)/Peter Ward (Maghera)

Wright eager to extend series lead

Posted: April 1, 2010 3:15 PM

Fiesta Sport Trophy series leader, Stephen Wright takes this weekend’s Circuit of Ireland Rally, eager to make amends for last year’s disappointment. A broken driveshaft put an end to the Monaghan natives rally on the very first stage of last year’s event. However Wright and returning co-driver Paul McGee are in much better shape going into the Easter classic this year after taking maximum points in the opening round in Galway. Wright commented this week, “I really can’t wait to start the rally on Saturday, Galway seems an awful long time ago and hopefully we can pick up where we left off, although I’m sure it won’t be easy”. The Spanwright, Killyhevlin Hotel and Lafarge Cement backed driver has warmed up for the IRC supporting event by taking a win and a third place in the opening two rounds of the Northern Ireland Championship.

Stephen and Paul will face some stiff competition this weekend, which will also include some sibling rivalry as Stephen’s sister Susanne will be co-driving for Fiesta R2 driver Barry Greer. The event kicks off on Easter Saturday Morning with the ceremonial start in Dundalk at 11.00am.

Marshals Urgently Required

Posted: March 31, 2010 12:35 PM

Marshals Urgently Required for this weekend.
Please call +44 7892 984 021 / 07892 984 021 if you can help on either Saturday, Sunday or indeed both.

Craig Breen Rallying: Circuit of Ireland Rally (Event Preview)

Posted: March 30, 2010 3:16 PM

There’s no better medicine than to get back out there when something goes wrong in any sport and that’s especially true in rallying. After the disappointment at the Bulldog, Craig and Gareth have the perfect opportunity to put that episode behind them as the Easter Holiday weekend beckons the traditional trip to the Circuit of Ireland, as the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship roars back into action with round two. Over the year's Rallying in Ireland has been defined by one weekend, that's the Easter Weekend and the Circuit of Ireland Rally. On Saturday next another chapter will be written in the events famous history and playing a major part will be Craig Breen in the "Kick Energy" Ford Fiesta S2000.

Craig débuted the Fiesta S2000 at the opening round in Galway where he sensationally finished second overall, scoring twelve points and also picket up three bonus points for being the first non World Rally Car finisher in the overall classification.

Craig’s view on the weekend and the Circuit next weekend
“It’s been a long time since I didn’t complete a rally and the retirement on Saturday was very hard to take. The first round of a new championship season is very important as it’s give you a base on which to work from. This was how I was so successful last year. The non finish at the Bulldog gives my rivals the advantage but I’ve grown a lot over the last twelve months and I take this as not a set back but on the other hand a challenge. The next round of the BRC is the Pirelli International and last season it proved to be one of the high lights of the year for me, my team and I will be working on repeating that kind of performance this year”.

“Looking ahead to the Circuit, I want to keep my run going from Galway, The rally will be as tough as usual and the centrepiece will be the night stage which will be interesting. Last year I went well on the night stages at the Jim Clark, so a good recce will be required. The characteristics of the stages will be different from that of Galway as they are usually fast and flowing, that is why I took in the National Championship round in Mayo where we tested gear ratios. Gareth and I will recce on Thursday and Friday and we can’t wait for that first stage on Saturday”.

This year’s circuit is based in the Park Inn Hotel, Dundalk with the fifteen stage event covering stages in Counties Down, Armagh, Louth and Monaghan. A marathon 29km night-time stage will be the centrepiece of this year’s rally with thousands of fans expected to descend on Dundalk for the ceremonial start on Easter Saturday. Craig is seeded at number six. All the usual suspects are attending, championship leader after Galway Gareth MacHale (06 Ford Focus WRC) is the top seed, Derek McGarrity driving a Subaru Impreza S12B is in second place and the top three is completed by Tim McNulty in another Impreza S12 B. Craig is classified as the top Group N competitor at sixth with Alastair Fisher following in seventh and the top ten is completed with Garry Jennings, Richard Carthcart, and Alan Ring. Nine stages are scheduled for Easter Saturday, then on Easter Sunday six stages will be run in the Castleblayney/Crossmaglen area.

Round two of the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship brings crews to the prestigious Circuit of Ireland Rally!

Posted: March 30, 2010 3:14 PM

The Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship bursts back into action this weekend with round two of the 2010 series - the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally!

The cross-border event features 15 stages, including an 18-mile night stage, with day one based near Newry and Banbridge, while day two's tests are located between Carrickmacross and Crossmaglen.

Championship leaders, Gareth MacHale and Brian Murphy, will start the event with number one on the doors of their Ford Focus WRC. The crew claimed outright victory at the opening round in Galway, and are in the hunt for their maiden Circuit of Ireland Rally win.

"I have fond memories of the battle with Eamonn Boland in 2008," MacHale recalled. "We just lost out on that occasion, and last year we had some mechanical problems but fought our way to third. Hopefully, this year will be a good rally for us."

MacHale will face stiff opposition from a number of contenders, including former Irish Tarmac champion and three times 'Circuit' winner, Derek McGarrity.

"Winning the event three years in a row will always stand out for me," McGarrity admitted. "I remember the last year that I won, in 2005, I went into the final stage leading by three seconds. Winning after that was quite satisfying."

Meath's Tim McNulty is another man with his eye on the prestigious trophy. Like MacHale, he is also in the hunt for his maiden Circuit win, and he will be full of confidence after claiming victory at the West Cork Rally less than two weeks ago.

Aaron MacHale and Kevin Barrett complete the top five seeds, while Craig Breen is at number six in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Breen impressed at the opening round of the Citroën sponsored series in Galway, where he claimed second overall. He is only one point behind Championship leader Gareth MacHale.

The production category will also see round one Group N winner, Alastair Fisher, lock horns with Garry Jennings and Richard Cathcart, not to mention Alan Ring, who holds third in class in the series standings.

The event also marks the second round of the Citroën Racing Trophy, which Robert Barrable leads after his victory over Martin McCormack at round one. The tussle will also be fierce among the Fiesta Sport Trophy crews, not to mention the Modified Challenge and Historic competitors.

The UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally gets underway on Saturday morning with the Dundalk Rally Show. Action starts in earnest during the afternoon and the winner will be crowned in Newry on Sunday. More details can be found online at

Rally legend Kenny McKinstry heads entry for UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally!

Posted: March 30, 2010 2:58 PM

Rally legend Kenny McKinstry heads the entry list for this weekend's UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally, round three of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.

McKinstry, who is a three times winner of the series and won last year's 'Circuit' National Rally, will be partnered by Noel Orr for the two-day event, which includes stages surrounding his Banbridge hometown.

Donagh Kelly starts the event at number two in his newly acquired Ford Focus WRC, and is hoping to take the challenge to the Banbridge rally ace.

Further down the order, Emma McKinstry and Stuart Biggerstaff are also among the World Rally Car entrants. The event will be Biggerstaff's first closed road rally, and he has already faced a number of issues during the days before the rally.

"Francis Regan was going to navigate but unfortunately he broke his wrist last week," Biggerstaff explained. "There was a panic to find another navigator but thankfully Anthony Nestor has stepped in."

In the Sunoco Fuels Group N category, Raymond Johnston and Fabian McAleer are the leading production category seeds, and start the event third on the road. Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont are next in line, while both Enda McNulty and Trevor Ferguson will be hot on their heels.

In the Hankook two-wheel-drive category, Draperstown's Camillus Bradley will wheel out his potent Mark 2 Escort. Frank Kelly is also looking forward to donning his night goggles, but unfortunately number 10 seed, Fintan McGrady, has been forced to withdraw his entry.

There will be some interesting battles among the Montgomery Motorsport Historic competitors, not to mention the Superdrive Junior category and Group A cup.

The event starts this Saturday morning with the Dundalk Rally Show. Crews will then have a short stop in Newry for service, before tackling the first loop of stages near Banbridge and Newry.

An 18-mile night stage will provide a real sting in the tail on Saturday evening. Those crews that reach the end of day one will then face an additional six stages on Sunday, before the winner is crowned at the Newry finish ramp.

Rally Programmes

Posted: March 29, 2010 10:11 PM

Programmes will be available for purchase in the stockists listed below from 26 March 2010

    Creightons of Finaghy, Lisburn Road, Belfast
    Lagan Motor Factors, Bachelors Walk, Lisburn, Co Antrim
    Topaz Broomhedge, Moira Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim
    Maxol Spar - Hillsborough Road, Dromore, Co Down
    Topaz Ballydown, Castlewellan Road,, Banbridge, Co Down
    Texaco Centra, Main Street, Loughbrickland, Co Down
    Milestone Filling Station, Newry Street, Rathfriland, Co Down
    Vivo Emo, Camlough Road, Newry, Co Down
    Clarks BP, Belfast Road, Newry, Co Down
    5 Ways Fuel Station, Armagh Road, Newry, Co Down,
    Clarks Topaz, Carlingford Road, Dundalk Co Louth
    Topaz Centra, Dublin Road, Dundalk, Co Louth
    O'Neills Esso Costcutter, Castleblaney/Dundalk Road, (N53)
    Watters Mace Filling Station, Cullaville
    Quinns Superstore, Newry Road, Crossmaglen
    McCaugheys 24hr Top Garage, N2 Dublin Road, Broomfield
    Hills Centra, Main Street, Markethill, Co Armagh
    Texaco Centra, Portadown Road, Tandragee, Co Armagh
    Pitstop Filling Station, Castleblaney
    Super Bite, Crossmaglen

FST Ireland heads for the Circuit

Posted: March 26, 2010 1:26 PM

The 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland championship heads to the town of Dundalk for Round 2 of the championship next weekend, the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally.  The event takes place over Easter weekend, 2-4 April and is credited as being the second oldest rally in the world.   

The event was first run almost 80 years ago and has seen its fair share of epic battles and even more famous names over the years.  The likes of Colin McRae, Roger Clark and Paddy Hopkirk have all competed and won the Circuit in the past.  The competitors on this year's FST event will be hoping to emulate some of their heroes on the legendary Irish stages.  The FST event takes place on Day 1 of the full International rally and competitors will battle it out over 158 stage kilometres including one night stage.   

Round 1 winner Stephen Wright and co-driver Paul McGee will be looking for a repeat of their dominant performance in Galway.  The 20-year-old student from County Monaghan won five of the nine stages in Galway on his way to a comfortable 56-second victory.  With a long seven week lay off between Rounds 1 and 2 Wright has kept himself "match fit" by competing on the first two rounds of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship taking a win and a third place finish to also lead that championship.  

18-year-old Dara Leonard and from Omagh and co-driver Vinnie Boyd put in an impressive display to take second place at Round 1 in Galway.  The youngster scored one stage victory on the event and would have finished closer to winner Wright had it not been for a broken driveshaft on Stage 5.  

Desi Henry had hoped to challenge Wright in Galway but struggled with an underpowered engine.  20-year-old Henry and co-driver John Rowan will be hoping to put that experience behind them on the Circuit.  They have also taken in the first two rounds of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship in preparation for the Circuit.  With two second place finishes, Henry is currently third in the standings just a single point behind joint leaders Stephen Wright and Jonny Leonard.  

Fiesta R2 driver Stephen Baxter (27) from Enniskillen made a fantastic FST Ireland debut in Galway until an accident on Stage 6 meant that he was unable to continue.  Baxter scored three stage wins in the first five stages and held the lead going into Stage 6.  Baxter and co-driver Karl Atkinson will be out to prove that it wasn't just beginners luck in Galway and put in a strong performance on the Circuit.  

The 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland Championship supports the TROA Irish Tarmac Championship, competing over one day of the full International rallies.  Kick Energy drinks support the championship that has a €2,500 prize fund guaranteed to the top eight FST finishers. 2010 Championship Standings after Round One


Posted: March 26, 2010 11:49 AM

Rally fans are being asked to volunteer their services for this year’s UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally which takes place this Easter weekend.

With cars expected to travel at speeds of up to 140 miles per hour, safety is the number one priority at the Rally, according to Des O’Loan, Head of manpower for this year’s event.

“Over 500 marshals are needed to help ensure the Easter weekend event is as safe as possible for drivers, spectators and people who live on the roads in the four border counties the rally will cover,” he said.

Des, who will make sure each of the 15 stages of the 74th Circuit of Ireland Rally are carefully managed by qualified and responsible volunteers, has appealed for people interested in working as marshals to register via the web site or call the CoI Marshal Hotline on 078 9298 4021/+44 78 9298 4021

He said:
“The event involves high speed motorsport on narrow, bumpy roads, with the top competing cars accelerating from nought to 60 miles an hour in just over three seconds. They are really powerful machines some of which are almost as quick as Formula One cars.

“Marshals are right in the thick of the action controlling all sorts of exciting situations. In the event of an incident their job is to be on the scene as quick as possible to get the cars back on the road and keep the rally moving. Marshals also make sure the general public are able to watch the high speed event from safe vantage points

“To be a marshal you need to be over 16 and have an interest in motorsport. It really is a fantastic opportunity to get an unrivalled vantage point for what promises to be an amazing rally.”

“We need timekeepers, staff for the service area and for the stages themselves.

“There are always a lot of experienced people to take control. Each stage has a stage manager who co-ordinates what happens at each stage and a stage commander who sets up the stage and runs all the technical bits like putting up rope at road junctions and deploying their team.”

Top 15 Entry list for UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally now available

Posted: March 25, 2010 12:29 PM

Gareth MacHale will follow in his father’s wheel tracks when he heads the entry list for the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally over Easter weekend (April 3 and 4).

His dad, Austin, won it in 1993 and again in 1998 and now 29-year-old Gareth attempts to add the MacHale name to the select list of father and son Circuit of Ireland winners, joining Jimmy and Colin McRae.

In the past six months Gareth has repeated the successes of his father in the eighties and nineties by winning the Donegal, Cork and Galway Internationals and now he will start at No.1 in his 06 M-Sport Ford Focus when the UTV Drive-sponsored event begins from Dundalk on Easter Saturday (12.30pm).

Gareth, however, will be challenged by a driver even more successful on the Circuit than MacHale senior. Derek McGarrity has won three times, putting him on a par with Roger Clark and Billy Coleman and behind only Paddy Hopkirk, who won five times, and Jimmy McRae, the only seven-time winner.

McGarrity, the reigning Northern Ireland champion, has his sights set on a fourth victory and will start at No.2 in a Subaru Impreza S12C. At No.3 in another S12 Subaru is Tim McNulty who finalised his Circuit preparations by winning the West Cork Rally last weekend.

They are followed by Aaron MacHale, Gareth’s elder brother, in another Ford Focus, with Irish national championship front runner Kevin Barrett at No.5 in his S11 Subaru.

The spotlight will also be on Craig Breen and his Super 2000 Ford Fiesta at No.6. The 20-year-old from Waterford was second behind Gareth MacHale on his debut in the car in Galway and has gone on to take third place on the Mayo national rally as he gears up for Easter and round two of the Citroen Irish Tarmac Championship.

The entry list also contains one of Ulster’s brightest young rising stars, 21-year-old Alistair Fisher, who was third in the British championship last year and heads up the entry list in the Group N production category.

Another to watch out for is British junior champion Martin McCormack who, having won the Irish and UK Citroen C2R2 Cup competitions in the past two years, has now set his sights on the French version and scored valuable points with second place on the Le Touquet Rally at the weekend.

With the entry list, including the national rally, approaching the 100 mark despite the economic downturn, the new organising team led by Rally Director Bobby Willis and Clerk of the Course Gordon Noble, have described it as “encouraging”.

“Entries are up by around a third in the international section which is very heartening, especially in the current economic climate,” said Willis.

“We are aiming to re-build the Circuit of Ireland over the next three years, and re-establish it on the international map, and this is a very encouraging start.”

The national rally, which is round three of the Hankook Northern Ireland championship, sees the return of Kenny McKinstry, the 2009 winner in his Subaru. McKinstry is contesting the MSA UK national gravel championship this year but with the Circuit so close to his home base in Banbridge, the former Tarmac and NI champion couldn’t resist the temptation to take part again.

He will be joined in the line-up by his daughter Emma, also in a Subaru Impreza.

And 21-year-old Stuart Biggerstaff, who has been the sensation of this year’s NI championship with second and third places on the first two rounds despite having only competed on one rally before the series began, will be there in the S9 Subaru usually driven by his dad Denis, a two-time NI champion.

A marathon 18 mile (29km) night-time stage will be the centrepiece of this year’s rally with thousands of fans expected to descend on Dundalk for the ceremonial start on Easter Saturday before the rally moves on to 15 stages in Counties Down, Armagh, Louth and Monaghan.

A full entry list and precise maps for the locations of each of the 15 stages are available in the Circuit of Ireland programme, details on the rally website.

Other sponsors of the 2010 UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland include Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Banbridge District Council, Dundalk Chamber, Triton Showers, Hankook Tyres, the Park Hotel, Dundalk; KDM Hire; The Web Bureau and Kantar Media.

Top 15 Entries - International & National

Posted: March 25, 2010 12:23 PM

( does not have the full entry lists)

Circuit of Ireland fans urged to ‘Keep the Race in its Place’

Posted: March 24, 2010 12:49 PM

With thousands of rally fans set to flock to the roads of the border counties to watch the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally on Easter weekend, the Environment Minister has reminded spectators of their responsibilities behind the wheel.

Speaking at a test day at Down Royal Racecourse where he saw first-hand the speed and skill used by top rally drivers, Edwin Poots urged fans and spectators attending the Rally to adhere to the DOE’s Road Safety Message – Keep the Race in its Place.

Mr Poots warned: “Young men, especially those with a keen interest in motorsport, will no doubt get a great thrill out of seeing the top rally drivers competing at high speeds.

“However we all need to be aware there is a big difference between driving on the circuit and everyday driving on the road.

“High-speed racing like the Circuit of Ireland takes place in a controlled environment in specially-designed cars driven by experienced rally drivers.

“Those skills cannot be put to the test on any road by any driver. It is too dangerous. Spectators and rally fans should be under no illusion that speed on our roads kills and wrecks lives.”

UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally Director Bobby Willis said rally organisers had given their full backing to the Keep the Race in its Place campaign.

He said:
“Rallying is great fun and we are looking forward to thousands of people enjoying the exhilarating sport this Easter weekend.

“We know fans enjoy the speed, skill and excitement but we strongly urge spectators to leave it to the professionals.

“There is a huge difference between driving behaviour in a rally to everyday driving on our local roads, when you put not only yourself but other drivers and pedestrians at risk.

“I would also urge fans to obey the marshals during the rally as they do a vital job in keeping everyone safe.”

Thousands of fans are expected to descend on Dundalk to meet and greet the competitors in this year’s UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland in Dundalk town centre at 11am on Easter Saturday, 3 April, before they set off on 15 stages across counties Armagh, Monaghan, Louth and Down.

Competitors will begin a gruelling rally taking in some 270 miles across some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland.

This year the service park will be situated in Newry’s Carnbane Industrial Estate. On Saturday afternoon drivers will also have a rest break in Solitude Park, Banbridge from 4pm.

An 18-mile marathon night stage will take place south of Banbridge on Saturday night.

Stages in Monaghan will take place on Sunday with the rally finishing in Newry later that day.


Posted: March 22, 2010 10:02 AM

Video Clip - Circuit Of Ireland Rally 2003 - 2009

Posted: March 12, 2010 9:23 AM


Posted: March 9, 2010 1:57 PM

Jeremy Biggerstaff, Managing Director of UTV New Media;
Bobby Willis, Race Director of the Circuit of Ireland Rally;
and Jimmy McRae, seven time winner of the Rally at the rally launch.

There was a double celebration for the Circuit of Ireland Rally team today.

At a launch at the UTV studios in Belfast, it was announced that UTV Drive, one of the leading online car sale websites is to sponsor the Circuit of Ireland Rally this Easter weekend.

Thanking the assembled guests Rally Director, Bobby Willis also confirmed that the 2010 Dakar winning VW Race Touareg will play a pivotal role during the Easter Rally as it makes its first appearance in Great Britain and Ireland since its stunning victory earlier this year.

Bobby Willis, Rally Director said:
“We are delighted that UTV Drive is to be principal sponsor. In the current climate sponsors are scarce and I would like to thank Jeremy Biggerstaff and his team at UTV Drive for their ongoing advice and support.

“The 2010 rally will now be known as the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally and I am sure the legions of motorsport fans will appreciate and welcome UTV Drive’s involvement.”

Jeremy Biggerstaff, Managing Director of UTV New Media, said:
“The Circuit of Ireland has legendary status across the rallying world and a strong and loyal following among thousands of rally fans.

"We believe that the Circuit of Ireland Rally and UTV Drive make a perfect partnership as we share the same vision for future growth throughout Ireland. Since we launched last Autumn we have been delighted with both public and commercial response to our website and partnerships like this reinforce our commitment to the local motoring community."

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has given his support to the Rally:

“Under my newly published Sports Strategy for Northern Ireland, Sport Matters, Government has made a commitment to establish Northern Ireland as a world class venue for sporting events. I am therefore delighted that my Department, with this commitment in mind, has provided funding for the Circuit of Ireland Rally for 2010.

“I am also particularly pleased that the organisers have achieved Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Supporter Event Status for the 2010 Rally. This is not only a major coup for the event but will allow the Rally to be profiled on a world stage. Sports events, like the Circuit of Ireland, help promote a positive image of Northern Ireland to a wider audience and bring important economic benefits. I wish the participants and spectators a safe and successful rally.”

Since taking over the running of the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally a number of months ago, Rally Director, Bobby Willis has not hidden his ambition to revive this great sporting event to the levels it enjoyed in the past.

Willis promised changes to bring new crowds to the Rally and this was evident today.

“I’m delighted to announce that we have secured the 2010 Dakar winning VW Race Touareg which is sure to excite motorsport fans the length and breadth of Ireland.

“The Race Touareg is the pinnacle of all-terrain motorsport having triumphed across 9,500kms in the world’s toughest motorsport cross-country marathon.

“I have worked with the VW team on Dakar for a number of years, the Race Touareg is a remarkable piece of engineering and technology and took first, second and third in this year’s Dakar - the winning team led by the rallying legend Carlos Sainz,” said Willis.

“The VW Race Touareg will perform a series of press engagements before the Circuit begins and then can be viewed by fans in Dundalk, Newry and Banbridge and also can be seen before each of the 15 stages across the Easter weekend.”

Adding his blessing to the launch at UTV today was the most successful driver in the Circuit of Ireland’s long history - seven time winner Jimmy McRae.

“The Circuit of Ireland holds dear memories for me and the re-introduction of the night-time stage evokes special thoughts having battled rally greats such Billy Coleman, Russell Brookes, Pentti Airikkala and David Llewellin across the famous Circuit.

“I’ve known Bobby Willis for many years and support his plans to re-awaken the sleeping giant that is the Circuit of Ireland and restore it to its past glory.”

A marathon 18 mile (29km) night-time stage will be the centrepiece of this Easter’s Circuit of Ireland Rally with thousands of fans expected to descend on Dundalk for the ceremonial start on Easter Saturday 3 April before the rally moves on to 15 stages in Counties Down, Armagh, Louth and Monaghan.

Precise maps and information surrounding the locations of each of the 15 stages will be available in the Circuit of Ireland programmes, which will be available for advance purchase online at and from retailers in the area before and during the event.

Other sponsors of the 2010 UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland include Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Banbridge District Council, Dundalk Chamber, Triton Showers, Hankook Tyres, the Park Hotel, Dundalk; KDM Hire; The Web Bureau and Kantar Media.

More Details:

Circuit of Ireland Extends Beyond Motorsport Community

Posted: February 27, 2010 4:40 PM

Bertie Fisher won more Irish Tarmac championship rallies than any other driver. And included in his total of 20 victories are three on the Circuit of Ireland. Those, he often said, were more important than all the rest.

Fisher, who died in a helicopter accident in 2001 along with his son Mark and daughter Emma, was much more than a rally driver. He was one of Ulster’s most prominent businessmen, the managing director of the family engineering business in Fermanagh and a key player in the construction of some of Northern Ireland’s landmark buildings like the Waterfront Hall and the CastleCourt Shopping Centre.

It was in this role that the Circuit of Ireland often proved an ice-breaker in business meetings.

He once recalled:
"The people I meet on occasions like this usually have no idea about rallying or what it entails. But I've lost count of the number of times when I’ve been introduced someone has said: "Oh, you’re the man who won the Circuit of Ireland".

"They don’t mention that I’ve won the Rally of the Lakes six times or the Donegal International three times. The only one that registers is the Circuit of Ireland."

"It always demonstrated to me that the Circuit of Ireland was one rally which reached beyond the motorsport community and struck a chord with the general public."

The name is still iconic and with a new organising team now in place, led by rally director Bobby Willis and clerk of the course Gordon Noble, the challenge is to re-build its international status.

It remains an integral part of Ireland’s premier rally series, the Citroen Tarmac championship, but Willis and his team are looking beyond home shores.

An important step in this direction was to align the event with the Intercontinental Rally Challenge which has become an attractive alternative to the World championship. The Circuit of Ireland was granted supporter status for 2010.

Willis is in no doubt it was the Circuit of Ireland’s name, and its history, which played a significant part in the IRC’s decision.

"Jean Pierre Nicolas, the IRC’s development manager, and Xavier Gavory, the general co-ordinator, were very receptive to the idea of the Circuit of Ireland becoming part of the IRC family," he said.

"They had heard of it, of course, but were surprised to learn about its colourful history and the part it had played in not just Irish but British and European rallying too."

Entries for the 74th Circuit of Ireland Rally are now open.

Posted: February 24, 2010 2:41 PM

Organisers believe the 135 capped entries will fill quickly following news of an 18 mile night-stage that will be run as part of the Easter rally extravaganza.

Dundalk will see the ceremonial start on Saturday 3 April before the rally moves on to 15 stages across counties Down, Armagh, Monaghan and Louth.

The Circuit plays host to a number of championships including the second round of the hotly contested Citroen Irish Tarmac Rally Championship

Don Wilmont, Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship Manager, said:
"The Championship began earlier this month with the traditional season opener at the Safety Direct Galway International Rally.

"Gareth MacHale and co-driver Brian Murphy won the event in their Ford Focus WRC with a victory over the Ford Fiesta S2000 of Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts.

"Finishing third in their WRC Focus were Aaron MacHale and Eugene O'Donnell after seeing off a strong challenge with the overall Group N winners, Alistair Fisher and Rory Kennedy.

"All eyes will now shift to the round two of the championship at the Circuit of Ireland."

The Circuit will also host the Hankook MSA NI Rally Championship, which begins the first of its ten rounds on Saturday (27 February) at Kirkistown Race Circuit with reigning champion Derek McGarrity in his Subaru S12B hoping to start the season as he finished the last.

Paul Biggerstaff, entries co-ordinator for the Circuit of Ireland and the Hankook MSA NI Championship, says there is a lot of excitement among drivers ahead of the Circuit of Ireland.

"The 18-mile night stage is a big talking point for those who are keen to compete.
Rally competitors these days don't get as much night time driving, especially not for such a long stage, so it will be very challenging.

"Drivers are excited by the new plans for the Circuit of Ireland's future under new Rally Director Bobby Willis and I would encourage competitors to get their entries in soon

Other championships that will be using the Circuit of Ireland stages include the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, the Citroen Racing Trophy Ireland and the Fiesta Sporting Trophy.

Now boosting IRC Supporter Event status, in a major coup for the organisers of the world's second oldest rally, the eyes of the rallying world will be on competitors and organisers this Easter weekend.

The rally will consist of a total of 15 competitive stages. Precise details surrounding the locations of each of the 15 stages will be available in the Circuit of Ireland programmes, which will be available for purchase at local retailers in the days leading up to the rally.

Regulations and Entry form available at:

Rally Launched

Posted: February 18, 2010 9:00 PM

A marathon 18 mile (29km) night-time stage will be the centrepiece of this Easter's Circuit of Ireland Rally, as organisers today announced details of the 74th running of the world's second oldest rally.

Thousands of rally fans will descend on Dundalk for the ceremonial start on Easter Saturday 3 April before the rally moves on to 9 stages in County Down, with a main rally base in Newry.

Saturday's final, night-time, stage is sure to be a daunting proposal to the 135 car entry of the event. Stages of this length are rarely seen in today's rallying and this one is sure to create a buzz with competitors.

Easter Sunday will see a restart from Dundalk, with a 45 minute service break taking place in Newry, prior to six stages being run in the Castleblayney/Crossmaglen area.

The rally will consist of a total of 15 competitive stages.

Rally Director, Bobby Willis said:
"I'm sure the efforts of local traders in creating a carnival atmosphere around the start in Dundalk will be well supported.

"The feedback to the introduction of the night-time stages has already been immense and we seem to be on the right track in re-invigorating the enthusiasm for the Circuit that we will build on in future years".

Outlining some of the activities that Dundalk traders plan for the start of the Circuit, Bill Tosh, Chief Executive of Dundalk Chamber said:
"We plan a party type atmosphere, to welcome the 135 cars and thousands of visitors to the centre of Dundalk, ahead of the start.

"From 11:00am on Easter Saturday we'll have a host of activities in Market Square for all the family. From 11:30am cars and drivers will assemble in Earl's Street where the public, fans and media can inspect the cars and meet the teams before the first car leaves the ramp outside the courthouse at 12:30 to signal the beginning of the Circuit of Ireland."

Other backers for this year's Circuit include Banbridge District Council, who recognise the significant economic benefits the rally brings to the local area, in terms of tourism expenditure. The town will play host to a regroup area, where the general public will be able to meet the drivers.

Elizabeth Ingram, Chairman of Banbridge District Council said:
"Banbridge District Council is delighted to support the Circuit of Ireland for the third year in succession and the town is ready to warmly welcome competitors and fans to the area.

"The rally brings economic benefits to the region through increased trade and bed-nights in the surrounding hotels.

"We're looking forward to the night-time stages which will take place close to the town and will prove extremely popular. Our newly refurbished town centre Solitude Park will also make the perfect viewing gallery for spectators and participants alike."

Bobby Willis is confident this year's Circuit of Ireland is the first step in a long path in re-building pride, excitement and restoring the Circuit of Ireland on an international stage.

"When I took over the day-to-day management of the Circuit a few months ago we promised fans and competitors alike that we'd introduce new elements, as we aim to grow the rally over the coming years.

"Already we've secured Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC) Supporter Event Status and I hope to secure funding to ensure that the Circuit of Ireland becomes a round of the IRC in the near future.

"Already the future looks bright for the biggest cross border sporting event in Ireland this year with more than 700 rally fans using Facebook and our web site to get the latest updates."

Precise details surrounding the locations of each of the 15 stages will be available in the Circuit of Ireland programmes, which will be available for purchase at local retailers in the days leading up to the rally. A full list of retailers will be available on the rally website.

Other sponsors of the Circuit of Ireland 2010 include the Park Inn Hotel, Dundalk; KDM Hire; The Web Bureau and Kantar Media.

More Details:

Draft Route

Posted: February 18, 2010 8:56 PM

Rally start in Dundalk. Easter Saturday lunchtime - Return to Dundalk late that evening

Regroup in Banbridge (Solitude Park) Saturday afternoon. Enabling the public to 'get up close and personal' with the drivers.

Finish in Newry late on Easter Sunday afternoon

National and Historic competitors
These competitors will get an additional 12 miles of stages this year.
There will be a six mile stage, run twice at the end of Saturday for this category only.

Stages in Monaghan
Once again the Circuit of Ireland returns to Monaghan, following excellent collaboration with both Monaghan Motor Club and the Cavan Motor Club, who are managing the stages.

Service Areas
This year there will be enhanced service time, to enable private teams to keep their cars in the rally. Two segments of 30 minutes on Saturday; one of 45 minutes and one of 30 minutes, on Sunday.

Gordon Noble Joins Circuit Team as Clerk of the Course

Posted: February 11, 2010 5:27 PM

Tyrone man Gordon Noble, a well known figure in Irish motorsport, has been announced as Clerk of the Course for the Circuit of Ireland rally, taking place on Easter weekend, 3 and 4 April.

With 25 years of experience of motorsport both on and off the track, Gordon held the same position for last year's WRC Rally Ireland event, and is well-prepared for the April rally which is expected to attract up to 15,000 spectators each day.

He will be assisted by Tom Walsh, from Westport in Mayo, who was Clerk of Course for Rally Ireland in 2007 when Gordon was his deputy.

With responsibility for meeting safety regulations for the 15 rally stages over 270 miles across four counties and managing a team of up to 700 marshals Gordon doesn't underestimate the challenge ahead of him.

He said:
"I'm honoured to be asked to be Clerk of the Course for the biggest cross-border sporting event in Ireland this year. It's a great opportunity to show off beautiful parts of the border counties and display a really professional set-up."

Gordon stressed that the event relies upon the commitment of the many enthusiastic marshals. He appealed for their support in to make the rally the most prestigious motorsport event in Ireland again.

"It is a huge responsibility and not a job I take lightly or underestimate but with the support of Tom Walsh who brings a wealth of experience, and our marshals it's an event we hope will be a big success and one we can build on.

"A lot of hard work is going in to reinvigorate the Rally and we hope that it will be a stepping stone to even bigger things. There are lots of very loyal rally fans but we want to welcome visitors outside the usual fan base and bring big economic benefits to the area."

Gordon, who works as a DRD engineer in Omagh, will be responsible for the sporting side of the rally, ensuring that safety regulations set by the world governing body of motorsport, the FIA, the British Motorsports Association and Motorsport Ireland are met.

Gordon, who is originally from Kesh in Fermanagh, first became involved in rallying in the 1980s in Omagh, and went on to be co-driver for Alastair McCrae.

He also navigated for Trevor Cathers and the late Mark Fisher, who won British and Irish titles during the 1990s and for Niall McShea when he was 2004 production World Rally champion.

Race Director Bobby Willis said:
"I am delighted that someone with Gordon's reputation and standing in the rally community has agreed to join our team. Competitors and rally fans alike will recognise that the vast experience he brings will ensure a professionally run rally."

The Circuit of Ireland has received Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Supporter Event status in a major coup for the organisers of the world's second oldest rally.

Seen as a significant step to incorporating a round of the IRC into the Circuit of Ireland format in 2011, the IRC Supporter status has not been bestowed upon any other rally in Ireland or Scotland.

The Circuit of Ireland forms round two of the Irish Rally Championship.

Full details regarding this year's circuit will be released shortly.

New Event Website Launched:

Posted: February 8, 2010 12:25 PM

Peugeot UK's 2009 IRC Champion co-driver Paul Nagle (left) and driver Kris Meeke (right) look on as Xavier Gavory, the IRC General Coordinator presents Bobby Willis, Circuit of Ireland Rally Director with IRC Supporter Event status.


Posted: December 17, 2009 12:05 PM

The Circuit of Ireland has received Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Supporter Event status in a major coup for the organisers of the world’s second oldest rally.

IRC Supporter Event status allows the Circuit of Ireland to be profiled on a world stage and signals the IRC’s intent to consider the Rally as a potential host.

Promised changes to Circuit of Ireland and an ambition to place the historic rally once again on an International stage heralded the arrival of Belfast-based global motorsport supremo Bobby Willis, who took control of the day-to-day running of the event last month.

Accepting the IRC Supporter Event status at the recent IRC awards ceremony in Paris, Circuit of Ireland Rally Director, Bobby Willis said:
“Having this prestigious charter bestowed upon the Circuit of Ireland is the first step in our strategy to re-awake the sleeping sporting giant that is the Circuit of Ireland. On top of that, Circuit of Ireland will be the only rally event to be granted "Supporter Event" in Ireland for 2010.”

Present at the special ceremony in Paris was Tyrone and Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke who was recently crowned 2009 IRC champion. He commented:
“The global success and growth of the IRC is testament to the popularity of rallying across the world and I’m delighted that Circuit of Ireland is to become part of this family.”

Xavier Gavory, the IRC General Coordinator said:
“The IRC Supporter Event status will give the Circuit of Ireland the opportunity to once again increase its international standing while consolidating its reputation on a national level.
“The Circuit of Ireland will benefit from the strengths of the IRC brand and aid promotion internationally through on-demand video highlights available on the IRC website.”

Circuit of Ireland, Rally Director, Bobby Willis said:
“I want to build interest in the Circuit of Ireland beyond our current base, hopefully bringing new championships and funding partners to the Circuit.

“This will take time to realise, and I am appealing for competitors, volunteers and fans to get in touch via Facebook or our new website
, when it is complete early next year, to register for the latest news as it develops.” In 2010, the Circuit of Ireland will be staged during its traditional Easter slot with precise details to be released in the near future.


Posted: October 29, 2009 9:31 AM

UAC Chairman Nigel Hughes welcomes new Circuit rally director, Bobby Willis

The Ulster Automobile Club (UAC) has announced that day-to-day control of the historic Circuit of Ireland rally is to be passed to the former international co-driver Bobby Willis. A respected figure within world rallying, the Belfast man is a consultant to motorsports events across the globe.

Local rally fans will remember his involvement in the phenomenally successful Super Special Stage at Stormont which was the floodlit curtain-raiser for the Rally Ireland round of the World Rally Championship in 2007.

While the Circuit of Ireland will continue to be owned by the UAC its Chairman, Nigel Hughes said:
“Over recent years changing requirements and regulations have seen an ever increasing workload for the Club’s part-time volunteers, this in a climate where we are competing with professional full-time sporting organisations.

“We are delighted that a man of Bobby’s experience has agreed to devote the required time to help safeguard the rally’s future development through fresh ideas and hopefully new investment.”

Mr Willis will oversee the smooth running of the event and plans to broaden its appeal. He will be assisted by an experienced and dedicated team of international rally organisers, as well as Bangor man Michael Orr, currently a co-driver with the VK M-Sport Ford Rally team competing on the World Rally Championship.

Circuit of Ireland, Rally Director, Bobby Willis said:
“I have a vision to re-establish the Circuit of Ireland as one of the leading rallies in Europe, providing all stakeholders with a motorsport event Ireland can be proud of, to re-awaken a sleeping giant.”

“No matter where you travel in the world, the Circuit of Ireland holds a special place in peoples’ hearts – I want to re-invigorate that nostalgia and host a rally worthy of its heritage.”

“In essence, I want to build interest in the rally beyond our current base, hopefully bringing new championships and funding partners to the Circuit.

“This will take time to realise, and I am appealing for competitors, volunteers and fans to get in touch via the website with their comments and to register for the latest news as it develops.”

In 2010, the Circuit of Ireland will be staged during its traditional Easter slot with precise details to be released in the near future.

Event /Club Website

Posted: October 29, 2009 9:30 AM

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