Circuit of Ireland Rally: Flag set to fly in Lisburn
The Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally is poised to power into Lisburn’s city centre at Easter.
For the first time in the event’s 80-year history it will feature a street stage in the heart of a city — indeed the first one of its kind in the UK.
The Lisburn Power Stage will be the colourful finale to the rally’s first leg on Easter Saturday evening (April 23).
Starting at 6pm, it will see the crews making two runs through the one kilometre stage which encircles the city’s Civic and Arts Centre at Lagan Valley Island.
The cars will race against the clock along Queen’s Road to the Wesley Street junction before doubling back on the dual carriageway, turning left across the bridge onto the island, past the civic centre, across the canal and on to the finish on Gregg Street.
The action will be streamed live on the internet by one of the rally’s associate sponsors, UTV Drive.
Circuit director Bobby Willis, who masterminded the Stormont superspecial stage during Rally Ireland in 2007, said the aim of the Power Stage was to bring the rally to the people rather than the other way round.
“When I took over the day-to-day running of the Circuit last year I said I wanted to bring rallying back to the people and that is exactly what the Lisburn Power Stage will do,” he said.
“It is not just for established rally fans but for families too.
“There will be day-long entertainment going on, including a U105 radio road show, a Rampage BMX display, family entertainment and spectators will be able to meet and greet the drivers before they start the stage.
“We will have viewing points which will safely bring spectators closer than ever to the action.”
He added that he had found enthusiastic support for the project from Lisburn’s councillors and the city centre management.
Indeed, the Mayor, Alderman Paul Porter, said he hoped it would prove to be “a long standing event” in the city calendar.
“I’m delighted Lisburn will play a part in a first for the Circuit of Ireland in its 80th year,” he said.
“I think Easter Saturday in Lisburn will be a day not to be missed.”
One driver determined not to miss it is former UK Evo Challenge champion and Mitsubishi works driver Phillip Morrow.
A Lisburn native, he returns to action this weekend on the Border Counties Rally in Scotland as a prelude to only his second Circuit of Ireland appearance.
“I drive an oil tanker along Queen’s Road virtually every day and it will be amazing to sit on the start line in a rally car with a clear road in front of you,” Morrow commented.
“It is one reason I just had to enter this year’s Circuit.”