Local drivers mark Circuit of Ireland return to Downpatrick & Mournes
Good news for the Circuit of Ireland Rally it that it will be returning to the Downpatrick and Mourne region on Saturday 9th April. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are delighted to support the Circuit and believe it is a real opportunity to showcase the beauty of St Patrick’s Country to European visitors and ensure they have an enjoyable time in such an iconic and historic tourism destination.
On Saturday 9th April Downpatrick’s St Patrick Square will be the hub for the Circuit of Ireland from around 9am when drivers from all over the world will converge in the centre of the town for a podium start ahead of the second day of competitive rallying in this year’s Circuit of Ireland.
Skirting the Mournes, the Saturday morning stages of the 85th Circuit of Ireland Rally will include the 14.5 kilometer long Buck’s Head stage followed by the hugely popular 17 Km Hamilton’s Folly which Dutch driver and now WRC competitor Kevin Abbring described in 2014 as ‘This is how a rally should be.’ The next stage, Bulls Brook takes in roads around Ballynahinch and Dromore before finishing with a mid-morning regroup in Banbridge town centre. The crews repeat all three stages in the afternoon which also features two loops of new stage, Banbridge before returning again to the King’s Hall Service Park and a ceremonial finish in front of Queen’s University.
Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said; “We are delighted to be returning to this wonderfully scenic route in Mournes region. The area has been a hugely popular with drivers and spectators alike over previous years.
Mr Willis added, “My sincere thanks go to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for their support and enthusiasm for the event. The Circuit team are also very grateful to the local people for how they’ve so enthusiastically got behind the Circuit of Ireland.”
Local rally driver and insurance business owner Fintan McGrady from Downpatrick and Ardglass competitor Davy Walsh joined Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mickey Ruane and Circuit Event Director Bobby Willis outside Down Cathedral to mark the Circuit’s return visit to Downpatrick and the surrounding area.
Looking forward to the Circuit, Fintan McGrady said, “The Circuit stages are some of the best in Ireland and as a Downpatrick man I particularly love our local stages, Buck’s Head and Hamilton’s Folly. I’ve competed in the Circuit of Ireland ‘National’ Rally for almost 30 years and it’s a super event.” Fellow competitor Davy Walsh who brought his Ford Mark 2 escort along to the launch in Downpatrick agreed with Fintan saying, “It’s fantastic that our local roads feature in the Circuit and no doubt challenge the very best drivers from Europe and beyond.
Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mickey Ruane said, “It’s wonderful that the Newry, Mourne and Down area continues to attract high calibre events like the Circuit of Ireland rally. The Rally is a truly international event and an important tourism asset, bringing visitors from all over the world to spectate and compete. We are very proud to show them this part of the North of Ireland, is rich in history and beauty and hope everyone will enjoy the council-organised events and entertainment programme.”
The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7th – 9th April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship. The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.
Last year, the Circuit of Ireland attracted over 78,000 spectators across the three day event and this year organisers anticipate over 80,000 visitors.
In addition to Newry, Mourne and Down District other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are; Belfast City Council; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Ards and North Down; Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council; Antrim and Newtownabbey; Mid and East Antrim Council and Causeway Coast and Glens.
Entries close on Tuesday 15 March.
The Circuit team would also welcome additional volunteers to help manage each of the stages and anyone interested can contact organisers via the volunteer page on www.circuitofireland.net.