Belfast Telegraph

Circuit of Ireland: Lancia rolling back years

By Sammy Hamill

A Lancia Stratos, the most iconic rally car of all time, is, incredibly, the first entry in this year’s Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland.

It is over 30 years since a Stratos last appeared on an Irish rally but the futuristic car which won the World championship for Lancia three years in a row in the mid-70s, remains a huge draw wherever it appears.

It will be driven at Easter by its owner Steve Perez, the former British national and reigning BTRDA Gold Star champion who is the man behind the Vodka Kick drinks brand.

He and the Stratos will bridge a 34-year gap in the Circuit’s history. It was in 1977 that the Chequered Flag Stratos last appeared on the rally, finishing second in the hands of Billy Coleman who went on to win the Donegal International in the car a few months later.

In fact the Flag Stratos, owned by London Lancia dealer Graham Warner, made its British debut on the Circuit in 1975, driven for the first time by 1974 winner Cahal Curley.

Now more than three decades later, Perez is bringing one of these exotic rear-engined sports cars back to mark the 80th running of the rally. He will compete in the national section of the event which starts from Armagh on April 23.

“I take part in rallies all over the world with my Kick Energy rally team, but few rallies can offer the historical significance and importance of Circuit of Ireland,” said Perez.

“It is a rally I have not done before but I’m looking forward to the challenge and to re-introducing Irish fans to the Stratos.

“I love the Stratos for the noise it produces and the reaction it gets from spectators and marshals. They just love it too.”

Circuit director Bobby Willis said: “The Lancia Stratos is one of the most exotic cars to have taken part in the Circuit and it will be wonderful to see one of these cars back on Irish roads.”

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