Rally Stars back Circuit’s Ards Special Stage
Thousands of spectators are expected to pack the streets of Newtownards on Good Friday evening (3rd April 2015) to watch an anticipated 140 cars tackle a new and revised route at the end of the first day of competitive rallying in this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.
The event represents the third round of the FIA European Rally Championship and is also a counting round of the FIA ERC Junior Championship.
Building on last year’s huge success, organisers of the Ards Town Centre Special Stage are planning a route of nearly two kilometres taking in roads in the Castlebawn Estate on the east side of the town centre with rally cars starting off from 6pm.
A key highlight of the 2014 Circuit, last year’s ground-breaking Ards TT stage attracted a record 25,000 people lining the streets of Newtownards and organisers alongside hosts, Ards Borough Council, have confirmed that designated ‘hubs’ will be created this year to afford even better spectator opportunities. Additionally the Council will organise a programme of family entertainment to complement the Circuit’s rally programme.
Helping to launch the 2015 Ards Town Centre Special Stage, alongside Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith, was world rally legend Paddy Hopkirk. One of Northern Ireland’s top sporting heroes, Paddy’s name appears five times on the historic and prestigious Circuit trophy as he chalked up wins in 1958, ’61, ’62, ’65 and ’67. Paddy Hopkirk continues to be an avid follower and supporter of the Circuit of Ireland and said he was delighted to be in Newtownards to launch this year’s special Good Friday evening stage.
“Historically the streets of Newtownards have resonated with top motorsport competition when international drivers competed in the world famous Ards TT Races during the late 1920s and into the 1930s. I myself enjoyed wonderful Circuit of Ireland successes in the 50s and early 60s and I’m delighted that famous rally stars will once again be back in Newtownards for a new and refreshed town centre stage.”
Also backing the Ards Town Centre Special Stage is ‘modern rally legend’ and Peugeot Rally Academy driver, Craig Breen who currently sits second in the European Rally Championship following his win in Latvia, the last ERC event.
“Newtownards last year was unbelievable! As we drove round the town centre streets it was amazing to see so many smiling faces – indeed fans of all ages! We received a fantastic welcome. There are some incredible names on the Circuit of Ireland trophy such as Paddy Hopkirk and hopefully my name will be there after Easter!”
Adding his support to the 2015 event, Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith said, “Ards is thrilled to welcome back the Circuit of Ireland, especially given that the Newtownards TT Town centre stage was one of the highlights of last year’s rally. This prestigious weekend of rallying is recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s best sporting events with a worldwide following. Hosting the Circuit will bring many benefits to the local economy and establish the borough’s growing reputation as a venue for high quality events.”
Entries closed on 17 March and Event Director Bobby Willis said “We’re extremely pleased with the range of entries received. We have many local names and also a huge amount of foreign teams- from as far away as Hungary, Russia, Latvia and Czech Republic. It’s fantastic to think that all of these drivers, who wouldn’t normally visit our shores, will have the opportunity of sampling our world famous Northern Ireland hospitality.”
Mr Willis also paid tribute to the Ards Borough Council members and staff for their support and contribution to the Circuit of Ireland. “I’m looking forward to building on all our hard work last year and I’m sure local spectators will once again turn out in force to warmly welcome all our 2015 rally competitors.”
The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place from Thursday 2nd April until Saturday 4th April 2015 and will be the third of ten rounds in the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship. The 2015 Circuit of Ireland will also be counting rounds of the 2015 Irish Tarmac Championship and the Northern Ireland Rally Championship.
For up to date information on the 2015 Circuit of Ireland visit www.circuitofireland.net
Follow on Facebook.com/circuitofireland or twitter @CircuitIreland.
For up-to-date information visit www.circuitofireland.net
For ERC details visit www.fiaerc.com