Feb 27, 2016
*Lisburn City Centre will host the prestigious Ceremonial Start of this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally on Thursday 7 April
Up to 80 cars and drivers from the International section of the rally will converge around the Irish Linen Centre & Museum in Market Square from 6.30pm with the first car being waved off at the official start ramp shortly afterwards.
The Ceremonial Start in Lisburn follows the Qualifying Stage in Antrim and marks the launch of two days of competitive rallying throughout stages in counties Antrim and Down. Rally cars will be flagged off from the ceremonial starting ramp in reverse order whilst the 15 top fastest crews from the earlier qualifying stage will select their starting position during the evening, ready for the first competitive stages on Friday morning – 8th April.
Selecting starting positions is a key element of the Ceremonial Start festival with drivers finalising their choices based on a combination of weather conditions, rally experience and ultimately bravery! Crew choices on the evening can be hugely beneficial for the initial day and can make a difference to the rally results at the end of the two day event.
Joining the ceremonial festivities on Thursday evening will be special guest of honour, former X Factor judge and famous boy band manager Louis Walsh. Louis will be joined by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Mayor, Councillor Thomas Beckett.
Visitors and rally fans will have the opportunity to meet and chat to international rally drivers and co-drivers, collect autographs and watch a programme of family entertainment. VIP guest Louis Walsh will also be on hand to meet and greet spectators and visitors.
The Ceremonial Start festival finishes with a special free concert with celebrated Queen tribute band, Flash Harry. The renowned and high profile local rock band will take to the stage from 8.30pm against the backdrop of the Irish Linen Centre bringing an exciting new twist to the hugely popular Rally extravaganza.
The City of Lisburn has been an integral part of the Circuit of Ireland Rally since 2011 hosting spectacular all action ‘Power’ stages. It is hoped this year’s Ceremonial Opening festival will bring the rally to a new audience in Lisburn city centre and coincides with Thursday evening late night opening with retail outlets, cafes and restaurants all contributing to the overall buzz and excitement.
Thanking Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council for their continued support, Circuit Event Director Bobby Willis said, “The Circuit has enjoyed amazing support from Councillors and staff at Lisburn & and Castlereagh City Council and we’re thrilled to bring a brand new dimension to the City in the form of our impressive Ceremonial Opening. Being able to bring along star personality Louis Walsh combined with a full blown concert performance by Flash Harry will make it an evening to remember in Lisburn City Centre.”
Through the Irish Linen Centre, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council has also agreed to produce very special and totally unique hand woven linen napkins which will be presented to the top three winning teams in the International Rally during the closing ceremony therefore showcasing the Lisburn region’s historic linen industry.
The high quality damask linen napkins will feature a bespoke Circuit of Ireland pattern and will be produced using a traditional hand loom by Lisburn Museum’s specially trained hand weavers and designers. These ‘Circuit’ inspired napkins will take many weeks to complete and will be created using early 19th century looms and once woven will be hand-finished ready to be presented to the International Circuit’s podium winners.
The Mayor, Councillor Thomas Beckett said: “I am delighted that Lisburn City Centre is part of Ireland’s most famous rally once again. I hope that residents and visitors alike will visit the City and enjoy the ‘sights and sounds’ of this Ceremonial Start to such a well-established rally event.”
Alderman Allan Ewart, Chairman of the Council’s Development Committee added: “The Council is committed through its Tourism Unit to supporting a variety of events being held within the Council area; and to have the opportunity to work with the Circuit of Ireland team again is a privilege.
“We anticipate significant economic benefits from the expected influx of visitors to this event. Last year this high profile event had a positive impact on local businesses in the City, so welcoming the drivers is definitely an asset to the Lisburn & Castlereagh City area.”
The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7-9 April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.
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