Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Antrim to host Circuit of Ireland qualifier in April

By Sammy Hamill

Published 12/02/2016

Rallying call: Looking forward to a brand new Circuit qualifying stage based at Antrim Castle Gardens is Jonny Greer. The Citroen DS 3R3 driver from David Greer Motorsport is pictured with Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Cllr Thomas Hogg (left) and Bobby Willis (right) Circuit of Ireland Event Director
Rallying call: Looking forward to a brand new Circuit qualifying stage based at Antrim Castle Gardens is Jonny Greer. The Citroen DS 3R3 driver from David Greer Motorsport is pictured with Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Cllr Thomas Hogg (left) and Bobby Willis (right) Circuit of Ireland Event Director

Antrim is to play host to the qualifying stage when the European rally championship comes to town for the Circuit of Ireland in April.

Historic Clotworthy House and the restored 17th century gardens of Antrim Castle will provide the backdrop for close to 80 drivers as they prepare to contest a rally which this year features in the British and Irish Tarmac championships as well as the European series.

They will assemble there on April 7 ahead of the shakedown and qualifying stages, which will be held nearby.

Event Director Bobby Willis said: "It is important to select a stunning venue to impress and win over our international visitors and media. The Large Parterre and Her Ladyship's Pleasure Gardens alongside the Yew Tree pond and the banks of the Sixmilewater river will provide a wonderful backdrop and showcase historic Antrim."

Organised in partnership with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, the qualifying session will include a closed road practice period in the morning with ERC priority cars departing from the Loughshore car park.

They will re-group at Antrim Castle Gardens at midday before the qualifying stage (12.30pm).

Afterwards they will return to the King's Hall Service Park in Belfast and the selection of starting positions will take place in the evening.

The move to Antrim points to a shift in direction for the rally which in recent times has centred mainly on Co Down. It is now expected to include stages up and along the north Antrim coast on Friday, April 8.

Co Down will also be included with Banbridge again featuring as a re-group venue during the Saturday leg. Entries open next week and are likely to include reigning European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz and current leader of the Irish Tarmac championship Keith Cronin.

Meanwhile, six-time champion Derek McGarrity heads the line-up for the opening round of the NI rally championship, the Pacenotes Stages at Kirkistown tomorrow (9.30am start).

McGarrity heads the field in the WRC Ford Fiesta he used to win the non-championship New Year Stages Rally at the same venue last month. On that occasion another former multi-champion, Kenny McKinstry, led until his Subaru was forced out but he is back and slots in at No.2.

Peadar Hurson, winner of the Tyrone Stages last year, is seeded at three with Emma McKinstry, Kenny's daughter, Jonny Leonard and George Robinson completing the top six.

Belfast Telegraph

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph