Carryduff Forklift N.I. Competitors Gear Up For Circuit of Ireland!
Posted: April 6, 2012 3:08 PM
The Carryduff Forklift MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship bursts back into action this weekend with the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally!
This year's event has an international flavour as the International category is also a counting round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Competitors from around the world have already arrived in the country in preparation for what will be a spectacular two-day event.
The Carryduff Forklift Championship competitors will contest the National section of the rally, which has attracted almost 80 crews. Current Championship leaders, Derek McGarrity and James McKee, head the entry in their MINI WRC. McGarrity already has five Circuit of Ireland victories to his name, and is hot favourite for adding a National win to his tally this year.
Hot on his heels will be former Northern Ireland Champion, Eugene Donnelly. Navigated by Paddy Toner, Donnelly has reverted to a Toyota Corolla WRC for the event. He started ahead of the Impreza WRC belonging to Darren Gass and Enda Sherry, although it remains to be seen if Donnelly or Gass will register to score Carryduff Forklift N.I. Championship points.
Banbridge's Kenny McKinstry is registered to score points, and he starts the National Rally behind Darren Gass. McKinstry and navigator Noel Orr enjoyed a tight tussle with McGarrity for last year's spoils, only for a spin during the final day.
County Cork driver Daragh O'Riordan, with navigator Tony McDaid, will also bid for Circuit of Ireland National glory in his Impreza WRC. And they are followed by another two WRC crews, with England's Steve Perez at number seven in his Ford Focus WRC ahead of former N.I. champions, Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor.
In the two-wheel-drive category, Frank Kelly and Stephen Quinn are the top seeds in their Escort. The Moy driver will be battling with the likes of Adrian Hetherington, Geoffrey Dolan, Drew Stewart, John Waring and Fintan McGrady.
There will be equally hot battles within the Production category. Trevor Ferguson and David McElroy are the current series leaders. They have entered in their Impreza, as has Paddy McVeigh and Stephen O'Hanlon.
Gerard McFall and Connor O'Loan are hoping to spoil the Impreza party with their Evo, while Jason Curran, who has Ian Regan on the notes, will be tackling the event in his Evo 8.
The action gets underway on Good Friday with a spectacular Titanic Super Special Stage in Belfast. Stage maps can be found in the official event programme. More details can be found online at www.nirally.com.
Photo: Jan Kopecký and Juho Hänninen at Armagh Goal
Posted: April 5, 2012 10:13 PM
Skoda Motorsport drivers Jan Kopecký and Juho Hänninen took a tour of Armagh Gaol ahead of this year’s Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally
Video & Press Release: Skoda announce sponsorship of Robert Barrable Rally Team in advance of Circuit of Ireland Rally
Posted: April 5, 2012 11:42 AM
Skoda Ireland today announced that it is to sponsor talented rally driver Robert Barrable and his team Robert Barrable Rally Team as he prepares to take part in this weekend’s Circuit of Ireland rally. A native of Swords, Barrable is a former Billy Coleman Award winner and 2010 British and Irish Citroen Racing Trophy Champion.
The rolling sponsorship agreement will see Skoda Ireland support the Robert Barrable Rally Team with additional team infrastructure including the provision of branded merchandise, marketing, pr support and a team hospitality unit as well as investment towards event costs.
Robert is this season competing in the latest specification ex-works Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car and is due to compete in this weekend’s Circuit of Ireland rally based in Armagh. This year the famous Circuit of Ireland Rally will form the third round of the global Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). The second oldest rally in the world. Steeped in history, many epic battles can be recounted after almost 80 years of rallying on the Emerald Isle. Skoda has previously tasted success at the event with Eugene Donnelly and Paddy Toner winning in 2009 with a Skoda Fabia WRC.
Speaking at the announcement, Dubliner Barrable said “I’m delighted to have such a great brand like Skoda supporting the team, the Skoda Fabia S2000 is a fantastic rally car, with the added support from Skoda Ireland will hopefully lead to further success this season, starting this weekend in Northern Ireland.”
Commenting on the sponsorship, Raymond Leddy, Marketing Manager, stated, “Skoda Ireland is very pleased to be able to support rising Irish Sports stars like Robert and we hope this sponsorship can help him further his career. We can see the potential in Robert and are delighted to be involved.”
Robert has already tasted success in the Skoda Fabia S2000 and this season will build on the experience he has had in the car last year, highlights of which include winning the West Cork Rally and taking out right win on the Sligo Rally a counting round of the Irish National Rally Championship. Robert also took part in several rounds of last season’s IRC and scored two championship points finishing ninth overall in the GEKO Ypres Rally a specialist tarmac round of the championship.
Skoda has a big presence at this weekend’s Circuit of Ireland Rally and has made a very good start to this year's IRC by scoring two “doubles” in the Azores and the Canary Islands, and its ambition is to continue its success story in the upcoming rally in Ireland that is this year's first event to see ŠKODA's factory team ŠKODA Motorsport at full strength (Kopecký & Dresler and Hänninen & Markkula). The list of drivers to appear in Ireland also includes the reigning IRC champion and leader of the current IRC standings Andreas Mikkelsen of ŠKODA UK Motorsport.
Citroen Racing Trophy Ireland Drivers Prepare for IRC Circuit of Ireland Easter Challenge
Posted: April 5, 2012 11:33 AM
Round two of the Citroen Racing Trophy Ireland 2012, and the crews line up as part of Ireland’s first IRC championship event, with five C2 R2 Max’s scheduled to take the Belfast City Hall start on Good Friday.
Having won the opening West Cork round, Limerick’s Kevin O’Connor is starting the Circuit of Ireland for the first time, and is delighted with his first round win. “West Cork was fantastic for us, and winning the Citroen Trophy prize money there has really helped us make this event possible. It’s my first time up to the Northern Irish roads, so we will probably start steady and try to build up. I expect to have another battle with David Carney, and probably Joe McGonigle too. It will be interesting for sure” commented Kevin. “I am still getting more used to the Max from the R2, and even in West Cork there was more to learn. There is a different steering feel with the Max and I’m just getting into that now.” Kevin starts the first of the C2 R2 Max’s at number 33, with Donegal’s Joe McGonigle at 34. Joe led the opening round for much of the way until an unfortunate mechanical failure. All was not lost however, as despite the retirement he still lies fifth in the Trophy, thanks to the new points system for 2012 which takes into account stage performance.
At number 35, Cork’s Kieran Daly is unfortunately to be non-starter. Kieran broke his arm in an accident on the Birr Stages, and is just not quite healed enough to drive this tough event. Kieran however has traded his damaged C2 in for Scott McElhinney’s car, and will be all set for the third round in Killarney. At number 36, David Carney lies a very close second in the series after a superb showing in West Cork, and the young Mayo driver is looking forward to this IRC status rally. A new addition to the series this weekend, is Armagh’s Sean Agnew. The former Gaelic footballer, won his class in the Border and National Championship’s last year, and has upgraded his C2 to Max specification. At number 38, Welsh man Steve Wood is hoping to add to his fine third place in West Cork.
In addition to the C2 entries, three Citroen DS3 R3’s will be contesting the event in the hands of Martin McCormack, Jonny Greer and Desi Henry, and challenging for top two wheel drive IRC honours. The action gets underway at 4.00pm on Friday, with the first stage a Super Special around the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, then four more stages before the overnight halt. Saturday encompasses ten more stages, including two runs around the Lisburn City spectator stage, before the Armagh finish.
To keep up to date check www.citroentrophy.com for more details.
Carmichael gets set for the Circuit
Posted: April 5, 2012 11:30 AM
Tomorrow (Friday) will see Alan Carmichael take part in his first ever round of the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge), when he lines up to start the Circuit of Ireland Rally. Having secured support from the Outlet Village Banbridge, Kerr’s Tyres and the Fun Factory, he will be back behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evolution IX to make his first international rally outing of the year.
Previously a regular competitor in the Irish Tarmac Championship, the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge and the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, the Ballymoney businessman has contested only a handful of events during the past year, whilst he concentrated on developing his businesses. Even so, he was able to squeeze in an outing this February when he entered the Bishopscourt Stages and proceeded to set front-running Group N stage times until a fuel-feed problem forced him out of contention.
Having sold his own Evo IX last year, Alan’s Mitsubishi will be provided by KG Motorsport, the company that has prepared many of his cars over the past four seasons. His co-driver on this occasion is the experienced Neil Doherty and, although admitting to being a little match-rusty, Alan is looking forward to competing in a world-class rally again this weekend:
“The opportunity of taking part in a round of the IRC when it’s so close to home is too good to miss. Obviously the competition is going to be tough, but I’m hoping that my experience of driving Evos, coupled with what I hope will be a reliable run, will mean we stand a chance of achieving top-ten finish - which would be great considering the high-standard of entries.”
Although registering for the Irish Tarmac Championship and therefore likely to enter further rallies this year, Alan goes on to say that he will wait to see the outcome of this weekend’s event before making a decision on whether he will contest the season’s remaining four rounds.
The Circuit of Ireland starts in Belfast City Centre at 3.00pm on Friday and heads to the new Titanic Quarter for a Super-Special spectator stage. There are then two runs of two stages on closed roads in roads in County Tyrone before the overnight halt in Armagh. Saturday features a further ten stages in counties Down and Armagh, including a power-stage in the Lisburn, with the finish taking place back in Armagh at 7.00pm.
Moffett Promises Titanic Effort for Circuit of Ireland
Posted: April 3, 2012 9:04 PM
Current Billy Coleman Award winner Sam Moffett will be back in rally action this weekend on the Circuit of Ireland. 22 year old Monaghan man Sam will have James O’Reilly co-driving as usual in his GpN Mitsubishi Lancer.
Sam, who won GpN and finished 2nd overall on last season’s Irish National Championship, will face his biggest challenge to date on this weekend’s Circuit of Ireland.
This year the Easter Classic rally is a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and has attracted some of the world’s best rally drivers, as well as most of the top Irish rally crews.
The ‘IRC’ is backed by Eurosport and will enjoy a worldwide TV audience estimated at over 100 million.
Speaking from his Clontibret base outside Monaghan town, where he works in the family firm Combilift, Sam said, “We have been testing the car earlier this week and have stepped up the electronics, to give more power. I’m quite nervous about the rally, but determined to give it a good go. It will be interesting to see the pace, as we hope to do some more IRC events outside Ireland.”
Sam’s car has been prepared for the rally by Irvinestown based Gerry McGarrity Motorsport and starts on the rally at number 17, with his young brother Josh seeded one place behind.
WRC Academy winner Fisher set for Circuit of Ireland
Posted: April 3, 2012 2:34 PM
Fresh from his stunning victory in the FIA WRC Academy section of Rally of Portugal last Saturday, Alastair Fisher is back in his native Northern Ireland this week to contest round three of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the prestigious Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally (April 6/7).
The second oldest rally in the world, the Circuit of Ireland hosts the IRC for the first time in 2012. The international series, televised extensively by Eurosport, visits countries all over Europe and is contested by some of the sport’s brightest prospects, such as Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen and Sepp Wiegand from Germany.
After competing in Portugal at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R2, Fisher will take a step up in performance – an extra 130bhp to be precise – when he switches to a four- wheel drive, 300bhp Ford Fiesta S2000 prepared by M-Sport, the company responsible for Ford’s factory team in the World Rally Championship. It will mark Alastair’s third appearance in the car, the same machine that Mikko Hirvonen used to win the famous Monte Carlo Rally in 2010.
“Competing at home on such a big event is very exciting, and I can’t wait to get started as it will be very special to get out in front of our home spectators in a Fiesta S2000,” said Fisher, 23. “I have limited experience of driving the Super 2000 car but I’m feeling very confident after winning the WRC Academy in Portugal and M-Sport has put a significant amount of work into the preparation of the car.”
The Circuit of Ireland takes on added significance for Fisher. Not only will he get the opportunity to measure his pace against some of the best drivers in the IRC, it’s an event his late uncle, Bertie Fisher, was synonymous with after winning on three occasions with co-driver Rory Kennedy, who will navigate Fisher on a one-off basis this weekend.
Based in Armagh, a one-hour drive from Fisher's home in Trillick, County Tyrone, the event begins with a superspecial stage in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter on Good Friday afternoon (April 6). Friday night’s itinerary features four stages north of Armagh. Saturday’s action consists of 10 stages south and east of Armagh including two passes of a stage through the streets of Lisburn and three runs over the 25-kilometre Redrock test. The finish is in Armagh at 19:00hrs on Saturday.
Q&A: Alastair Fisher
How much of an advantage will your local knowledge be against the regular drivers from the IRC?
“I don’t know the stages, just the area. At the end of the day the top teams will still have a good set-up and will be very fast although we may have a bit more confidence at the start because we have an idea of just how slippery it is if it rains.”
Given the fact you’ve spent the last week competing in Portugal, how much preparation will you be able to do before the rally starts on Friday?
“I’ve been working very hard on my fitness over the winter and I will be aiming to get a couple of sessions in between Portugal and the start of the Circuit. In terms of driving the car we are testing on Wednesday using two different roads. One is quite fast, the other is more technical so that will give us a good all-round feel for the car and set-up.”
The rally starts with a stage in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. How good will that be?
“It’s obviously special because it’s the 100th anniversary and the Titanic is recognised all over the world. It should be exciting but it’s the sort of stage where you have to watch you don’t clip a wheel or do something stupid because you have the bulk of the mileage to come that night and you don’t want any damage.”
Your late uncle Bertie Fisher is synonymous with the Circuit of Ireland. What does it mean to you to be following in his footsteps?
“It’s very, very special because what Uncle Bertie achieved winning the rally three times and everything else he did in his career is something I’m very proud of. I certainly hope I can do a good result but it’s a long way between now and then. I just have to focus and do the best I can.”
And you’ll be working with Bertie’s former co-driver Rory Kennedy. What can you learn from him?
“He’s a very professional co-driver, very experienced and a legend in Irish rallying. For him it’s very special to be competing on the Circuit again. He’s looking forward to it just as much as I am.”
Fisher’s 2012 rallying season has been made possible by the support of Modern Tyre Service, GR White and Son Electrical Contracts, TBC Motability Conversions, Armagh City Hotel, Pacenotes Rally Magazine, Jennings Fuels and Sport Northern Ireland.
DONNELLY GROUP CIRCUIT OF IRELAND RALLY IRC PREVIEW
Posted: March 31, 2012 10:24 AM
The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally will be a thrilling addition to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when it hosts the all-action, Eurosport-backed series for the first time next week (6/7 April).
With an entry list packed full of some of the best drivers in the IRC, not to mention several leading contenders from Ireland and Northern Ireland, the event features two showcase tests that will create added excitement.
The Titanic Super Special Stage in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, where the famous ocean liner was designed and constructed more than 100 years ago, plus a stage through the streets of Lisburn, will combine with stages through the demanding country lanes based around host town Armagh to form one of the most spectacular events on the 2012 IRC calendar.
Following a ceremonial start in the centre of Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast on Good Friday afternoon, the competitive action begins at 17:00hrs local time with the Titanic Super Special Stage, a 1.90-kilometre blast under the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes used in the building of the Titanic. Crews then head north of Armagh for two repeated stages, the second runs of which will take place at night.
Twelve special stages provide the backdrop to Saturday’s competitive running with the demanding 25.12-kilometre Redrock stage, which will be run three times in total, bringing 221.47 kilometres of high-speed action to a close on Saturday evening (7 April).
Highlights of the rally will be shown on Eurosport and will also be available at www.ircseries.com and via Eurosport Player.
Although the Circuit of Ireland Rally uses Tarmac-only stages, the asphalt in Northern Ireland is unique with a bumpy and low-grip surface set to provide the IRC regulars with a tough test, which is increased by the narrow and undulating nature of the roads.
Car set-up is a compromise between precision road holding and an allowance for the flat-out jumps and bumps that will litter the stages, with a high degree of suspension travel vital.
The inclusion of the tight and twisty Titanic and Lisburn town centre stages merely adds to the task facing the crews when finalising set-up. The weather can also be unpredictable with periods of sunshine mixed with rainy spells, making tyre choice crucial.
Rallying is hugely popular in Ireland and Northern Ireland and tens of thousands of fans are expected to line the route during the Easter holiday weekend.
· With the first edition taking place in 1931 as the Ulster Motor Rally, the Circuit of Ireland Rally is the second oldest rally in the world after Rallye Monte-Carlo.
· The event became known as the Circuit of Ireland due to its 1000-kilometre, gruelling five-day route around the island of Ireland.
· Colin McRae is a former Circuit winner, taking a Subaru Legacy to victory in 1991.
· The prospects of a ‘home’ victory are good. Only one overseas driver – Pentti Airikkala in 1979 – has won the event.
· Centenary celebrations of the Titanic’s maiden voyage will be in full swing when the Circuit of Ireland gets underway in Belfast on Good Friday afternoon.
THE BATTLE FOR VICTORY
Andreas Mikkeslen starts the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally with an 18-point advantage in the race for Intercontinental Rally Challenge title glory. And the defending IRC champion can also count on some ‘local’ knowledge having rallied extensively in Ireland during his early career.
However, the ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver has yet to win a round of the IRC on asphalt and the last non-British or Irish win on the Circuit of Ireland was back in 1979 when the late Finn Pentti Airikkala triumphed.
The Finnish challenge this year is represented by 2010 IRC champion Juho Hänninen, who finished second to Mikkelsen on the season-opening SATA Rallye Açores but missed the next round in Gran Canaria after his ŠKODA Motorsport team nominated Jan Kopecký for the asphalt event instead.
Kopecký took victory and will be looking to build on that maximum score and his recent successes in the Czech championship when he heads to the Circuit of Ireland for the first time.
The ŠKODA line-up is completed by Sepp Wiegand, who drives for the make’s German importer and has impressed on his last two IRC appearances this year, plus County Dublin’s Robert Barrable, who showed his worth against the IRC regulars with a point-scoring finish on the IRC-counting Ypres Rally in Belgium last season.
Mathieu Arzeno and Craig Breen will count on the exciting upgrades made to Peugeot’s 207 Super 2000 to bring them success next weekend. The car has been widened by 20mm to provide improved cornering stability, while minor bodywork changes will aid brake cooling and air flow around the wheel arches. While rising star Arzeno is new to the Circuit of Ireland stages, talented Irishman Breen has extensive knowledge of the terrain and will be expected to fly.
Alastair Fisher is the lone M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 driver on the entry. Like Breen, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland has a wealth of local knowledge to count on, not to mention an abundance of pace and the expert guidance of his co-driver Rory Kennedy, who partnered Fisher’s late uncle Bertie Fisher to three Circuit of Ireland victories in the past.
IRC Production Cup
In the absence of category regulars Robert Consani and Marco Tempestini, the battle for IRC Production Cup honours will be fought out between several local stars including Garry Jennings, Donagh Kelly, Alan Ring and Daniel Barry, who has previous IRC event experience having taken part on selected asphalt rounds in the past. IRC Production Cup drivers traditionally have the pace to challenge for outright IRC points and that will be no different on the Circuit of Ireland.
IRC 2WD Cup
The IRC 2WD Cup fight is set to be close with Mark Donnelly, Tommy Doyle, Jonny Greer and Martin McCormack all capable of winning the category. All four have tackled IRC events previously with Renault Clio R3 drivers Donnelly and Doyle both impressing. McCormack is also highly rated having tasted success on national events in France and the United Kingdom. Hungary’s Menya Krózser will make his second start of the season in a Honda Civic Type R.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: CRAIG BREEN
Irish talent to start IRC campaign on home ground in uprated Peugeot
Your first IRC appearance of the season and your first in a Peugeot 207 S2000, how did your test go last week?
“It was exceptionally good, the car is very much a Tarmac racer. Straight out of the box it was very, very good, stable and powerful. Having spent time developing my Fiesta S2000 I’m going to have to drop everything and start from the ground up but I’m sure Peugeot can give me a car capable of winning.”
What can drivers competing on the Circuit of Ireland for the first time expect?
“Ireland is different to anywhere else in the world with big jumps, compressions, dips and narrow roads. In a Super 2000 car it’s horrific to try and keep the car in the middle of the road.”
So finding an optimal set-up isn’t easy then?
“It’s a compromise between gravel and Tarmac settings. The biggest thing is you need to have as much travel in your suspension and you will find the left wheel is never doing what the right wheel is doing. The roads are also uneven and you can do six kilometres on narrow lanes and then get onto a wide and smooth road before it goes narrow again. It’s a big compromise but a fantastic challenge.”
How much will your local knowledge help you?
“I’ve never driven in the region where the stages are but I’ve done the Circuit twice. The first time was in a completely different area, the second time was quite close to where this year’s rally will be but we crashed on the second stage. Okay it’s home advantage in that I know what the stages can be like but I won’t get to see them until I do the recce next week. I just hope it stays dry because if there is rain then it will be very slippery.”
What can you achieve on this rally?
“I want to win and showcase what I can do in my own country. I want to find a good pace on Friday evening and then push like hell on Saturday and try to get a win. It will be difficult first time in the car but if we put the homework in early in the week and have a good recce it’s very possible.”
Event: Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round three of 13
Starts: Belfast, 16:00hrs, Friday 6 April
Finishes: Armagh, 19:00hrs, Saturday 7 April
Base and permanent service park: Armagh, Northern Ireland Surface: Asphalt
Mikkelsen makes Circuit of Ireland return as reigning IRC Champion and series leader
Posted: March 30, 2012 2:17 PM
ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen will return to Ireland for the first time since 2007, when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion and current points leader contests the team’s home round of the series, The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, in his Fabia S2000.
Andreas contested several rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship when he was 18-years old, which included a 3rd place finish on the Circuit of Ireland (the year it was called the UAC Easter International Rally). Having initially visited Ireland as a young rally apprentice, Andreas now returns as the driver all IRC competitors aim to beat.
Andreas will be co-driven, as he was in 2007, by Ola Fløene – and having never rallied around the host town of Armagh before, a good recce and accurate pace notes will be the first steps towards success. Andreas hopes that his detailed pace note system – which has up to nine separate descriptive remarks for one corner, delivered in a combination of English, Norwegian and Swedish words, whichever is the easiest and quickest for Ola to say – and the title-winning performance of the Fabia S2000 will help him challenge for victory against the top IRC and Irish opposition.
The Circuit of Ireland has received the strongest IRC entry of the season so far. Eight Super S2000 cars are on the list, with five Fabia S2000s driven by Andreas, Juho Hänninen and Jan Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport), Sepp Wiegand (ŠKODA Germany) and Robert Barrable (ŠKODA Ireland). Barrable, from Swords in Co. Dublin, won the prestigious Billy Coleman Award in 2010 and has already shown his class in the IRC, after scoring a top 10 finish on the 2011 Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium.
The Circuit of Ireland National Rally has also received a magnificent entry, which includes John Mulholland, dealer principal of ŠKODA retailer Mulholland Motors in Randalstown, driving an Octavia WRC. He’ll be co-driven by Eamon Gorman.
Andreas: “I did rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship in 2007, and the stages and the atmosphere were both fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to going back. I’ve never rallied around Armagh, but I expect it will be typical Irish stages – fast, very bumpy, narrow lanes, with gravel in places and really slippery if it’s wet. You can’t find anything quite like an Irish road in any other rounds of the IRC, or anywhere else in the world. I think this year’s Circuit of Ireland will be a good rally for us, as it will suit my driving style.”
The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally starts outside Belfast City Hall at 16.00 on Friday 6 April and goes into what promises to be a sensational Titanic Super Special Stage at the Titanic Quarter, which forms part of the Titanic Festival. From there, the rally moves to Armagh, where two stages (Drummond, 8.09 miles/13.03kms and Legane, 15.71 miles/25.29kms – the longest stage of the event) are tackled twice; the second time at night. After 48.8 miles (78.54kms) of competition, the first cars are expected to check into the overnight parc ferme in Armagh at 22.35.
Leg 2 on Saturday 7 April starts at 08.00 and contains 10 stages, beginning with a loop of three stages (Redrock 15.6 miles/25.12kms, Drumhillery 8.9 miles/14.32kms and Hollow 9.1 miles/14.66kms) to the south and east of Armagh. All three are repeated after service in Armagh, before two runs over the Lisburn city centre stage (which attracted 15,000 spectators last year), a 4.69 mile/7.55km stage north of Banbridge and another run over Redrock completes the action. The rally finishes in Armagh at 19.00, after 137.61 miles (221.47kms) of flat-out driving.
Edited daily highlights from the event will be broadcast on Eurosport – check TV listings for times.
Andreas will attend two ŠKODA retailer events before the Circuit of Ireland, where rally fans can meet and chat to the IRC Champion. These will take place at Mulholland Motors in Randalstown on Saturday 31 March (14.30-16.30) and at Mervyn Stewart in Belfast on Tuesday 3 April (19.00-21.00). He’ll also be one of the special guests at the Rally Forum, which takes place in the Armagh City Hotel on Wednesday 4 April, starting at 20.00.
JARDINE AND HAMILTON DRIVING WORLD CLASS RALLY FORUM AND MITSUBISHI IN CIRCUIT OF IRELAND RALLY
Posted: March 26, 2012 12:20 PM
Sky Sports News’ F1 analyst Tony Jardine will be teaming up with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Maurice Hamilton to enter the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally (taking place on 6-7 April). To celebrate the third round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) coming to Armagh, a public Rally Forum hosted by media man and rally competitor Jardine will be held at the Armagh City Hotel on Wednesday 4 April at 20:00hrs. Fans will get to meet rally superstars and bosses including Andreas Mikklesen, Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Gerard Quinn, Malcolm Wilson, Maurice Hamilton and Jimmy McRae.
Jardine and Hamilton will be competing over the Easter weekend in the MIS Motorsport backed and ProSpeed run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX owned by Northern Ireland’s Raymond Mason. Jardine placed this car 35th overall last November in Wales on the final round of the 2011 World Rally Championship (WRC). Now switching from gravel to Irish tarmac stages, the team’s Kumho tyres will first see action around Belfast’s docks where the world-famous Titanic was built over 100 years ago and where the opening stage will be held.
The Circuit of Ireland Rally is one of the oldest rallies in the world, with big names such as Colin McRae and Paddy Hopkirk having won there and the likes of Hannu Mikkola and Henri Toivonen having contested these Emerald Isle stages. In 2012, there will be a total of 15 stages, with the ceremonial start in Belfast City Centre on Friday 6 April at approximately 15:00hrs before the rally heads to the Titanic Quarter for the Super Special Stage. Directly following this will be two more stages (each run twice) on sweeping tarmac roads in County Tyrone before the competitors then arrive in Armagh (60 miles southwest of Belfast) for an overnight halt at the end of day one.
Day two starts in Armagh on Saturday with a service at 08:00hrs and consists of 10 demanding stages in the counties of Down and Armagh, including a power stage in the City of Lisburn (9 miles west of Belfast). The rally will finish in Armagh at 19:00hrs.
The media duo of Jardine and Hamilton is a successful rallying partnership having previously notched up numerous class wins and podium finishes on national rallies, 28th
overall on the 2008 Topaz Donegal Rally in a Skoda WRC car, and 35th overall and first in class on the 2002 Network Q Rally of Great Britain in an MG ZR.
Jardine can’t wait to get back in the Mitsubishi and commented, “It’s a quick and reliable Raymond Mason car tended by Olly Marshall and the ProSpeed team so it should perform well on the tarmac stages. Maurice is from Bangor and this will be his second time competing on home soil as my trusty co-driver. I always look forward to rallying in Ireland and think it should be a challenging, but fun event for us. The Chief Executive of MIS Motorsport, Dermot Hanafin – who is himself a former and successful Irish rally driver - will be following our progress enthusiastically by helicopter, so I’d better make sure I have MIS branding on the roof of our car!”
GLOBAL RALLY SUPERSTARS CONFIRM CIRCUIT ENTRIES
Posted: March 26, 2012 12:14 PM
A spectacular line up of international drivers has been revealed for the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, including reigning IRC Champion, Andreas Mikkelsen.
The Rally entry list is packed with entries from both international and local rally heroes who will be battling the clock this Easter Weekend 6/7 April for the coveted Circuit title.
This year the entrants will have the added pressure of the Titanic Super Special Stage which takes place at 5pm on Good Friday in Titanic Quarter, Belfast.
Andreas Mikkelsen, the youngest champion in the history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, will spearhead the line-up of for the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland at Easter. The 22-year-old Norwegian, who won the IRC title in dramatic fashion in the final event of last season, leads a powerful Skoda assault on the rally which begins from Belfast City Hall on Good Friday (April 6).
Mikkelsen will be backed up by Finland’s Juho Hanninen, the champion in 2010, and Czech Jan Kopecky, who has been runner-up in the series for the past three years, as Skoda seek to retain the manufacturers’ championship.
Super 2000 Skoda Fabias will also be driven by rising German star Sepp Wiegand and Ireland’s 2010 Billy Coleman Award winner Robert Barrable, the former UK and Irish Citroen Trophy champion.
Mikkelsen, who drives for the Skoda UK team, became champion when he won the final two 2011 rounds in Scotland and Cyprus, snatching the title from under the nose of Kopecky, and this season has followed up with victory in the Azores, the first driver to win three IRC rallies in a row.
He also led round two, the Corte Ingles Rally in the Canary Islands, until the last stage but an engine problem saw him fall back and lose out to Kopecky.
No stranger to the Circuit of Ireland having begun his career as a teenager, not in his native Norway, but on Irish and UK events, Mikkelsen has graduated to the top of the IRC rankings and returns to Belfast as the charismatic fresh face of international rallying.
Mikkelsen is No.1 in a starting list of more than 100 cars in the international and national categories of the rally which will also see the Peugeot challenge led by Ireland’s World Academy champion Craig Breen, who is now the current leader of
the World Super 2000 championship.
The 22-year-old from Waterford will move from Ford to Peugeot to join the French Sainteloc team for the first of four IRC appearances in an evolution 207. His team-mate will be Mathieu Arzeno, one of France’s most exciting young talents and a protégé of World champion Sebastien Loeb.
Top Ulster driver in the entry list is Alastair Fisher, 23-year-old nephew of three times Circuit of Ireland winner Bertie Fisher.
Fisher has set his sights on succeeding Breen as WRC Academy champion this year but will make three IRC appearances in an S2000 Ford Fiesta run by M-Sport, Ford’s World championship team.
Irish drivers will be strongly represented in the IRC two-wheel-drive Cup category where Marty McCormack, reigning British F2 champion, and Mark Donnelly, current leader of the British series, are among the leading entries. They take on experienced Europeans such as France’s Robert Consani and Hungary’s Menyhert Krozser.
Former Irish Tarmac champions Derek McGarrity and Eugene Donnelly head the national entry, McGarrity in one of the new WRC Minis and Donnelly in a WRC Toyota Corolla.
They will be followed over the City Hall start ramp by Darren Gass (Subaru), winner of the opening round of this year’s Tarmac championship, the Galway International, and three times Northern Ireland champion Kenny McKinstry (Subaru).
Bobby Willis, Event Director of the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, is delighted with the entry field:
“The entry list is really strong for this year’s Circuit. The interest and support from the many international drivers wanting to get involved has been fantastic. But as always, it’s also great to see the entries flood in from our local Rally talent.
“The purpose built Titanic Super Special Stage on Good Friday will be spectacular for spectators and competitors alike. For the drivers, this is a particularly challenging stage and for the spectators, this is an incredible opportunity to see the action up close.”
RALLY GREATS TO ATTEND ARMAGH RALLY FORUM - (Wed) 4 Apr 12
Posted: March 23, 2012 10:09 AM
With just over a week to go until the world renowned Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) descends upon Northern Ireland, the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally is giving you the opportunity to put your questions to some of the biggest names in motorsport.
Ahead of the Circuit this Easter Weekend 6/7 April 2012, it has been announced a Rally Forum will take place in the Armagh City Hotel in the Rally’s host city of Armagh, on Wednesday 4th April, 8pm.
The Rally Forum will be compered by motorsport expert and Sky Sports presenter, Tony Jardine. The Forum provides an unrivalled opportunity for you to meet and greet the greatest Rally superstars and bosses including:
Andreas Mikkelsen - Reigning IRC Champion and Skoda UK driver
Kris Meeke – Dungannon man and 2009 IRC Champion
Craig Breen – 2011 WRC Academy Champion
Gerard Quinn – Ford Europe Motorsport Director
Malcolm Wilson – Head of M-Sport, Ford World Rally Team
Maurice Hamilton – Motorsport writer and broadcaster
Jimmy McRae – Legendary record breaking seven time Circuit of Ireland champion
Bobby Willis, Event Director of the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, said ahead of the event:
“The Rally Forum will be taking place in the Armagh City Hotel just days before the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally kicks off.
“Armagh is once again the host city of the Rally, which takes place during the Easter Weekend 6/7 April. The Service Park will be located in the Armagh City Hotel, the Armagh Rugby Club and the Armagh Demesne, for the duration of the event making the hotel, the perfect location for our spectators and fans to put their questions to some of the biggest names in global motorsport.
“The 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally is the only UK or Ireland event to be included in the IRC this year and with our purpose built Titanic Super Special Stage taking place on Good Friday, the competitors and spectators are in for a real treat. As are the millions of viewers who will be tuning in to Eurosport to catch the IRC stages from the Emerald Isle.
I’m looking forward to hearing from Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen in the lead up to the event. As reigning IRC Champion he will have to compete against some of the best Irish talent to defend his title.
“Dungannon’s Kris Meeke is a perfect example of how well our local drivers can do in these global Rally events. He took the title of IRC Champion in 2009.
“Also taking your questions at the Forum will be Gerard Quinn, Malcolm Wilson, Jimmy McRae, Craig Breen and Maurice Hamilton. I would like to thank them all in advance, and of course our celebrity compere Tony Jardine, for getting involved and showing their support for the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally.”
The Rally Forum 4th April, 8pm is taking place in support of the McRae Vision Charity which was set up following the tragic death of 1991 Circuit Champion Colin McRae.
Admission to the Rally Forum is £5 and can be paid at the door.
Garry Jennings is counting the days and is eagerly awaiting the start of the Circuit of Ireland rally. With the event counting as an IRC round for the first time this year, the Mitsubishi Evolution driver is hoping to see some foreign competition on the starter’s list in addition to the ever competitive Irish GPN runners. “This year should be very exciting, Bobby Willis, Gordon Noble and the organising team have done an incredible job to get the event back to it’s rightful status as one of Ireland’s most popular and challenging events. To secure a round of the IRC series is just phenomenal and I really hope the event gets the much deserved support by competitors, spectators and members of the press”
Garry will mount a challenge for victory within the conventional GpN category along with Enniskillen’s Barry McNulty in the navigator’s seat. “I have worked with Barry a number of times now, starting at the Oldcastle Mini Stage event last year and more recently on the gravel events locally. We get on well and he does a very thorough and professional job, the car has been overhauled once again by Keith Rainey and we are hoping the reliability we have enjoyed since the debut of this car will continue.”
With the Circuit Of Ireland taking place over Easter weekend and the spectacular opening Stage in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast before the action moves to the closed road tests in the Armagh / Dungannon area it is sure to attract big crowds and an excellent atmosphere.
“I am hoping we can score a good result on the Circuit and if we can then piece together a deal with our sponsors to take part on further rounds of the IRC series it would be amazing. I have always been tempted to do the Ypres Rally in Belgium but the close proximity on the calendar to Donegal has always stood in the way. Watching events like Barum Rally – Czech and San Remo Rally – Italy all entice me but finding the budget will be the key. New rallies and different challenges are part of the enjoyment of this sport, finding the best setup, adjusting your driving style to suit to different road characteristics are all attributes I feel our team does well.”
Video: UTV Ad for 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland
Posted: March 16, 2012 10:25 AM
Video: Test Day
Posted: March 16, 2012 10:23 AM
TITANIC SUPER SPECIAL STAGE READY FOR CIRCUIT OF IRELAND RALLY TAKE-OFF!
Posted: March 16, 2012 10:01 AM
Titanic Super Special Stage ready for Rally take off: Former Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Simon Best experienced the drive of his life today as he was sped around the newly completed Titanic Super Special Stage in Belfast which will form the opening stage of the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally. Simon is the first driver announced to take part in a Celebrity Challenge taking place before the Titanic Super Special Stage on Good Friday and was today taking tips from Donagh Kelly, winner of the Group N award of the 2011 Circuit of Ireland.
The smell and roar of engines filled the air yesterday at Titanic Quarter in Belfast, as media, VIPs and competition winners attended a test day and had a sneak preview of the incredible Titanic Super Special Stage which has just been completed ahead of this Easter’s Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Celebrities including former Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Simon Best experienced the drive of his life today as he was sped around the newly completed spectator stage which will form the opening stage of this year’s Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland.
More than 2,000 tonnes of spoil have been removed from the site to shape a spectacular 2km stage that will enthral the thousands expected to pack the grandstands as part of the Titanic Festival on Good Friday 6 April.
More than 120 competitors and visitors from around the globe will descend on Belfast for the opening stage as this year the famous “Circuit” becomes the third round of the global Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) which will be broadcast to millions courtesy of Eurosport.
Former rugby legend Simon Best experienced the thrilling stage as a co-driver travelling at speeds of over 100 mph over the tight winding stage.
While he was co-driver today Simon will be driving come Good Friday as the first driver announced to take part in the Celebrity Challenge taking place before the Titanic Super Special Stage.
The former Ulster star who has more than 100 caps for Ulster said:
“I have followed the Circuit of Ireland for many years as a fan, but to be actually sitting in the car is unbelievable. The acceleration is unreal and the skills of the competitors in keeping the car on the stage is truly amazing.
“I’m looking forward to going to Rally school and then competing on Titanic Super Special Stage on Good Friday. Hopefully I’ll keep her between the hedges!”
“The stage is brilliant and families and rally fans are in for a treat this Easter weekend. The inclusion of the Rally in the IRC series will profile this country to a massive global audience in a very important year for tourism in 2012.”
The family action will begin on Good Friday with a ceremonial start at Belfast City Hall at 4pm where families will be able to meet and greet the drivers before the action moves to Titanic Quarter.
Ahead of the competitive first special stage of the rally which starts at 5pm, families at the Titanic Quarter will be treated to a motorsport spectacular which will include:
· A Celebrity Challenge – local celebrities going head-to-head
· Former world motorcycle street bike freestyle champion Mattie Griffin
· A number of classic rally cars including Ari Vatanen’s Pikes Peak winning Peugeot 405 T16, which will make a very rare appearance
Then it’s the main event as the Titanic Quarter comes alive with the sound of engines and smell of petrol as competitors from across Europe battle the best of the Irish drivers in a spectator stage in the shadow of the gleaming Titanic Belfast building and yards from where the famous liner was built.
Rally Director, Bobby Willis is very excited about this year’s motorsport spectacular. He said:
“We are trying to widen the appeal of this famous Rally and encourage more families to attend. By bringing the Rally to a city centre we hope to attract new followers to Rallying.
“Those attending the Circuit of Ireland this year will not be disappointed. We’ve been working hard to ensure a family friendly event and one that allows spectators get closer to the action than ever before but from a safe environment. That’s exactly what the Titanic Super Special Stage will deliver – good, clean family fun!”
“Rallying is undergoing something of a revival in Ireland and last year we witnessed that with thousands of fans following the action in Armagh and Lisburn. This year will be no different.”
Following the Titanic Super Special Stage, the rally then powers south for 14 more stages over two days centred round the historic host city of Armagh and also including a city centre Power Stage in Lisburn which attracted 15,000 spectators last year.
The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) will be selling tickets through the Belfast Welcome Centre for Titanic Super Special Stage priced at £12.50 standing, reserved seating £25.00 and VIP tickets £72. Family passes are also available priced £90. Tickets can be purchased online at the event website or by calling 028 90 246609.
The IRC is one of the most followed motorsport series on the planet with a cumulative audience of 79 million viewers in 2010 (official 2011 data has not yet been released) and rose to prominence in the UK and Ireland when Dungannon’s Kris Meeke won the title in 2009.
For further information go to event website or Facebook Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Attention Circuit of Ireland Marshals and Volunteers: Win a Trip to Rally Barbados!
Posted: March 14, 2012 1:53 PM
The 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally is delighted to announce an exciting competition, open to all volunteers and marshals over the age of 17, to win a trip to this year’s Sol Rally Barbados.
Volunteers who dedicate their time to the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, which takes place this Easter Weekend 6/7 April, will automatically be entered into the draw. Two lucky winners will then be whisked off to sunny Barbados to see how international rallying is done on the other side of the Atlantic!
The Sol Rally Barbados event takes place over 9-10 June 2012 and is organised in association with Pacenotes Rally Magazine and the Barbados Tourism Development Corporation.
Closer to home, the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally which this year forms part of the world renowned Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), has opportunities for volunteers to assist on Good Friday 6th April, Easter Saturday 7th April or on both dates, where possible.
Assistance is needed:
On the incredibly exciting stages around Armagh, Dungannon and Banbridge
On Titanic Super Special Stage 6th April and Lisburn Power Stage 7th April
In the service area at Armagh City Hotel
On the Radio Networks on the stages
At Belfast City Hall as the cars and drivers assemble before the Titanic Super Special Stage
And in the re-fuel areas
Des O’Loan, Manpower Manager at the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, is delighted with the response from volunteers so far:
“Once again, we have had a terrific response from volunteers eager to be involved with this historic event.
“I would like to highlight that no previous experience is necessary as all volunteers will attend training sessions prior to the Rally.
“All new volunteers will have a fantastic opportunity to get close to the action and work alongside some of the most experienced motorsport officials in the country. They will become part of a team lead by experienced Marshals who have been working on the event for many years, do a fantastic job and help everyone to have safe and enjoyable rally.
“This year, with so many volunteers, it is essential everyone registers through our website and do so at the earliest opportunity. The Marshals Registration Instructions can be downloaded from the Marshals tab online on the rally website.
“All volunteers over the age of 17 will automatically be entered to win a Rally adventure to Barbados. The Sol Rally Barbados is a really great event and I know the two lucky winners will have a super time.”
So why not play a vital role at the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally this Easter to be in with a chance of winning the best prize in UK and Irish rallying!
ENTRIES WILL CLOSE THIS COMING MONDAY (19th) AT 12 NOON
Mark Donnelly (GpN) teams up with Hankook for Circuit of Ireland.
Posted: March 12, 2012 11:46 AM
2010 MSA Hankook Northern Ireland Rally Championship Group N winner Mark Donnelly will once again team up with Hankook Tyres for the forthcoming Circuit of Ireland Rally. Donnelly has chosen the Circuit of Ireland as the event to avail of his 2010 prize, full Hankook support across an Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC) event.
Donnelly contested his first full Northern Ireland Rally Championship in 2010 following a glittering Quad Racing career which saw him collect multiple Irish and Great Britain Championships as well as the 2008 European title. Now equipped with a 2009 ADR built Mistubishi Evo 9, Donnelly is eagerly looking forward to the event.
"A few weeks ago there was no sign of me competing in the COI but thanks to the support of Hankook Ireland, I can use my 2010 prize for the forthcoming IRC event. I am really looking forward to competing in the COI now, especially with the support of a tyre company like Hankook.
There seems to be a real buzz around the event this year as it's a round of the IRC so both the team and I are really looking forward to the rally. I hope to do a tarmac event prior to the Circuit just to get some miles under my belt and get up to speed with things again".
The addition of the 2012 Circuit of Ireland to the schedule of the IRC has raised the profile for all competitors and as the international teams prepare to descend on Rally Headquarters in Armagh, Hankook are proud to be supporting one of Irelands most exciting young talents.
"Hankook Ireland are delighted that Mark has the opportunity to showcase his talent at an IRC event in Ireland. Mark's recent form in Fivemiletown, where he was 3rd overall, indicates that he has not suffered unduly from his year off. We hope he can carry this momentum into the Circuit of Ireland Rally and get a result."
With just under one month remaining before the spectacular opening Titanic Specataor Stage of the 2012 Circuit of Ireland Rally Mark Donnelly and his team have started their preparations. For ongoing updates and news log on to www.hankook.ie or www.facebook.com/hankook.ie.
Titanic Super Special Stage set for sell out!
Posted: February 28, 2012 11:44 AM
Tickets are now on sale for one of the most anticipated motorsport events in Ireland, this year. The Titanic Super Special Stage of the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally which will begin in Belfast on Good Friday 6 April.
Thousands of spectators are expected to wave off more than 100 competitors from across the world, from Belfast City Hall at 4pm before the Rally superstars take on the challenge of a spectacular purpose built stage in Titanic Quarter.
This year the famous Circuit of Ireland Rally will form the third round of the global Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) with the action and images of Belfast broadcast into the homes of millions around the world, courtesy of Eurosport.
Tickets for the Titanic Super Special Stage, which forms part of Belfast City Council’s incredible Titanic Festival, can be purchased from the Belfast Welcome Centre or www.circuitofireland.net
Rally Director Bobby Willis is confident the remarkable line-up of drivers and action packed stage will see tickets snapped up in record time.
“Since launching details of the Titanic Super Special Stage in January, we have been inundated with calls and emails from excited fans desperate to know when they can get their hands on tickets. The answer is now!
“The opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest rally stars, such as reigning IRC Champion, Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen and Juho Hänninen of Finland (who have been swapping fastest times throughout recent IRC events) as they hurtle round a track at incredible speeds does not come around often – especially so close to the city !
“We’ll also have a Celebratory Challenge and former world motorcycle street bike freestyle champion Mattie Griffin will amaze the crowds on his BMW F 800 R, before the rally stars take on the stage at Titanic Quarter.”
The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) will be selling the tickets through the Belfast Welcome Centre. Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Servicing at BVCB said:
“Belfast is definitely ready to welcome visitors from Europe, and further afield, for the Titanic Super Special Stage which forms part of the Titanic Festival.
“The new multi-million pound Titanic Belfast, which will already be open and the famous Harland and Wolff cranes will provide an unforgettable backdrop to the stage which is to be broadcast on Eurosport.
“The Titanic Super Special Stage is an event which will appeal to rally fans and families alike. Advance booking will be essential and tickets are priced between £12.50 and £25 with VIP packages also available through the Belfast Welcome Centre.”
A number of Group B cars will be driven on the Super Special, before the competition, including the hugely impressive Ari Vatanen 4 wheel drive, 4 wheel steering and 700 brake horse power Peugeot 405 T16, which was driven to victory on the 1989 Pikes Peak Hillclimb in America. This is a very rare appearance for this gem, of which only two cars were only ever built.
Belfast City Centre Management has been working closely with the Rally organisers. City Centre Manager, Andrew Irvine said:
“The Titanic Super Special Stage at 5pm on Good Friday guarantees a great day out for all the family and I’m thrilled that for the first time in over two decades, the Circuit of Ireland will be starting in Belfast.
“The Circuit will add to what is always a busy trading day in Belfast. We have worked closely with organisers so that there will be no disruption to traffic flow around the city centre.
“This is a major boost for Belfast traders, allowing them to showcase their offering to the many tourists expected to attend.”
Mr Willis continued:
“Fans follow the IRC wherever it goes and those visiting Belfast for the first time will not be disappointed thanks to the amazing Easter Weekend programme of events secured by Tourism Ireland and Northern Ireland Tourist Board, along with Belfast City Council.
“Support from the tourism bodies and Armagh, Lisburn and Belfast Councils has once again been incredible and I’m delighted that the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally has secured such a massive opportunity to promote Belfast, and Northern Ireland as a whole, as the ‘must visit’ European destination of the moment.”
Following the Titanic Super Special, drivers will take on 14 stages centred around the historic host city of Armagh with additional stages across counties Down and Tyrone. Easter Saturday will also see the return of the hugely popular city centre Lisburn Power Stage which is expected to draw thousands of spectators, as in 2011.
Standing and seated tickets for the Titanic Super Special Stage can be purchased at the Belfast Welcome Centre, 47 Donegall Place, Belfast BT1 5AD, +44 (0)28 9024 6609 or online at www.gotobelfast.com and www.circuitofireland.net
The Rally can also be followed on Facebook at Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Trevor Payne (West Limerick 102) interviews Bobby Willis
Video: Circuit Of Ireland Rally 2012 Launch
Posted: January 27, 2012 9:13 PM
Posted: January 27, 2012 9:10 PM
Friday 6th April
16.00 Ceremonial Start – Belfast City Hall
16.20 Autograph Session / Meet the drivers at Titanic
16.45 Cars leave for ‘Free Service’ before SS 1
17.00 Start of SS 1 – Titanic Super Special
SS 3 & 4
19.47 Service ‘A’ Armagh – 30 minutes
SS 5 & 6
22.32 Parc Ferme – In Armagh
Saturday 7th April
08.00 Start of Leg 2 and Service ‘B’ Armagh – 45 Minutes
SS 7, 8 & 9
11.14 Service ‘C’ Armagh – 30 minutes
SS 10, 11 & 12
14.15 Service ‘D’ Armagh – 30 minutes
16.00 Lisburn Power Stage
SS 15 & SS 16
18.21 Service ‘E’ Armagh – 10 minutes
19.00 Finish Podium & Prizegiving
TITANIC SUPER SPECIAL STAGE TO LAUNCH 2012 DONNELLY GROUP CIRCUIT OF IRELAND RALLY
Posted: January 27, 2012 9:03 PM
A global motorsport phenomenon will roar into Belfast this Easter, as the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally joins the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) series in an event that will be broadcast to almost 80 million around the globe.
Starting in Belfast for the first time in over two decades the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes and gleaming new Titanic Belfast building will provide an incredible backdrop as the Titanic Super Special Stage, broadcast on Eurosport, starts the famous rally across 6/7 April 2012.
As part of the Titanic Festival, Good Friday will see thousands of spectators descend on Titanic Quarter as 120 competitors, including the best Irish drivers and IRC stars from around the world, race across an adrenaline filled track of more than 2km, specially designed to guarantee incredible spectator viewing.
The rally then powers south for 14 more stages over two days centred round the historic host city of Armagh and also including a city centre Power Stage in Lisburn which attracted 15,000 spectators last year.
Speaking at today’s launch in the Titanic Drawing offices in Belfast, Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA said:
“2012 is a year of utmost importance to Northern Ireland. There are so many special events and anniversaries taking place that we can safely say we have a genuinely exciting experience to offer the world.
“I welcome the thrilling contribution the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally will make to the world-class programme of NI2012 events and especially welcome the news that the Rally has been inducted into the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge and is only UK stage in the calendar.
“With the addition of the IRC, this event will not only bring in crowds in their thousands to Northern Ireland, showcasing our tourism product and contributing to the development of the economy but will also show Northern Ireland to around 10 million people via Eurosport.
“That’s why I am pleased that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has provided financial assistance of £70,000 to support marketing and promotion as well as assist with the cost of running the event.”
Belfast man and global motorsport promoter Bobby Willis, is also Rally Director. He said:
“2012 will be the biggest and best Circuit of Ireland Rally in more than two decades as we continue to restore the event to its former glory.
“First and foremost, I want to thank both Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland who were visionary in realising the potential of this event and worked tirelessly to secure it.
“The Titanic Super Special Stage will be a feast for motorsport fans and families alike with some of the world’s biggest rallying stars, including current IRC series champion, Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, thrilling crowds on a stage that will be built beneath grandstands yards from where the Titanic was launched.
“The slippery surface of this stage will really test the competitors making it incredibly exciting for both drivers and spectators alike.”
Willis, who organised the Super Special Stage at Stormont in 2007 as part of Rally Ireland, has always been keen to ensure the public get as close to the drivers as possible.
“Fans and families will have the opportunity to meet the drivers before a ceremonial start at Belfast City Hall and again in Lisburn and Armagh as we bring the Rally back to the people.”
Belfast Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile welcomed the news.
“Following the MTV EMAs last November, Belfast will once again be beamed into the homes of millions of viewers via Eurosport coverage of the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
“2012 is set to be another huge year for Belfast and Circuit of Ireland will take its rightful place among the world class events we have planned around the opening of Titanic Belfast and during the Titanic Festival.”
The IRC is one of the most followed motorsport series on the planet with a cumulative audience of 79 million viewers in 2010 (official 2011 data has not yet been released) and rose to prominence in the UK and Ireland when Dungannon’s Kris Meeke won the title in 2009.
IRC's Motorsport Development Manager and former international rally driver Jean-Pierre Nicolas has spent the last two days driving the stages that make up the Rally. He said:
“We are delighted to welcome the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally to the IRC family.
“Drivers competing in the IRC are always keen for a new challenge and having driven the stages I can assure them a challenge is exactly what they will get from the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally!
“The Easter weekend tarmac stages through the beautiful Irish countryside are incredibly demanding. Several narrow roads, bumpy tarmac with ever changing conditions will ensure excitement and adrenaline levels will be running high at every corner.
“The breath taking backdrop of Counties Armagh, Down and Antrim will certainly not disappoint rally fans around the world, who are set to travel to Ireland to experience this new and truly exhilarating round of the IRC.
“Ever since the IRC's inception in 2007 it has been our objective to showcase new events and cities but to also join forces with established rallies with a strong reputation, entry list and following.
“The Circuit of Ireland Rally is steeped in tradition and we are delighted to be playing a pivotal role in the Titanic Festival in Belfast.”
Among the top Irish drivers that will do battle with current IRC series stars next year will be Donnelly Group sponsored Donagh Kelly (Donegal), Jonny Greer (Carryduff), Craig Breen (Waterford), Robert Barrable (Dublin) Mark Donnelly (Omagh) and Alastair Fisher (Trillick).
Mike Smith, Chief Executive at Titanic Quarter Limited said:
“As a high profile European waterfront development we, along with our co-promoters Belfast Harbour Commissioners, are committed to continue to act as a driver for investment and development of Belfast.
“Titanic Quarter is delighted to be hosting a world class sporting event.
“The rally fits with our vision of transforming the maritime quarter with high profile businesses, accommodation and a community that will benefit from sporting events such as the Circuit of Ireland.
“The profile that Belfast will receive through Eurosport coverage cannot be underestimated.”
Title sponsor once again this year is the Donnelly Motor Group which has seven sites throughout Northern Ireland. Its Managing Director Terence Donnelly said:
“Everyone at the Donnelly Group is absolutely delighted to once again be sponsoring the Circuit of Ireland Rally which has truly come of age with its inclusion with the IRC.
“Last year’s event was a massive success and the general public in Belfast, Armagh and Lisburn as well as the legions of motorsport fans who will descend on these shores from the further afield, are in for a treat this Easter.
“I am proud to support the Rally’s continued development which will have far reaching economic and tourism implications for the region as a whole.”
This year’s co-sponsors of the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally include: UTV Drive, Tourism Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Armagh City and District Council, Lisburn City Council and Belfast City Council, Titanic Quarter, Kantar Media, Triton Showers, KDM Hire, Yellow Brick Road, and The Armagh City Hotel.