Belfast Telegraph

Craig Breen heads the bill at popular Circuit of Ireland Rally

By Sammy Hamill

Craig Breen will head a capacity entry for the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally which takes place over the Easter weekend.

The Peugeot Academy driver from Waterford, a former World S2000 champion,  takes the coveted No.1 spot ahead of European championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz courtesy of his superior FIA ranking. 

The International Circuit, which is round three of the European series, has secured the highest number of  crews, 53, for any round of the ERC this season and there are a further 87 signed up for the national rally  with a further 13 on a reserve list. 

Breen is currently joint second with Frenchman Robert Consani  in the European points table, the two of them five points behind Kajetanowicz,  following his victory on last month’s Rally Liepaja in Latvia. They take the top three places in the starting list with Breen’s Peugeot at one, the Ford Fiesta of Kajetanowicz at two and Consani’s striking new Citroen DS3 at No.3.

Next in the list is Russian Alexey Lukyanuk who competes under the Belarus flag and is regarded as the ERC’s most spectacular driver; indeed he is a three-time winner of the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.

Tyrone’s Alistair Fisher, back on home ground after finishing runner-up in the World WRC3 series last season, is seeded fifth in an R5 Ford Fiesta with Dubliner Robert Barrable, who claimed third place last year, sixth, also in  Fiesta. Sam and Josh Moffett, Stephen Wright, Marty McCormack, Jonny Greer and Joe McGonigle are some of the other Irish drivers who will be taking on the European challengers.

In the starting list, too, is Russian glamour model Inessa Tushkanova and ERC Ladies’ Trophy champion Ekaterina Stratieva.

Nineteen of Europe’s best young drivers will chase ERC Junior Championship points including local drivers Jon Armstrong from Kesh and Calvin Beattie from Newry. Round one winner Emil Berkgvist from Sweden, who  drives for the Opel-supported ADAC Junior Team, will be here too.

Overall more than 20 countries are represented in the entry list which has delighted Event Director Bobby Willis. “The Circuit of Ireland is making huge strides forward and this fantastic entry list really bodes well for the future.  In the past six years the organising committee has worked extremely hard and I feel quite emotional when I say, I believe we have fulfilled our strapline and really have ‘woken up the sleeping giant!’

“As well as our international ERC contenders I’ve been hugely impressed with the national contest entries. Demand was so overwhelming that it was necessary to create a reserve list and I’m urging drivers on the main list to advise us in good time if they are, for whatever reason, unable to compete in the Circuit, so we can offer positions to those crews on the reserve list as soon as possible.”          

Last year’s winner of the National  Circuit, Donegal’s Declan Boyle, takes pole position on the national seeded entry list. The reigning Irish Tarmac champion has had a challenging start to the 2015 season following car trouble at the Galway and West Cork rallies.

Five times winner of the Circuit of Ireland Derek McGarrity, who has won the first two rounds of this year’s NI championship, is at No.2 in his new Subaru S14 with three-times champion Kenny McKinstry at three, also in an S14 Impreza..

Re-uniting as part of the national contest are Scottish hero and Idris Elba’s rally mentor, Jimmy McRae along with his co-driver Ian Grindrod from Lancashire. McRae’s name has featured on the historic Circuit trophy seven times and three of those victories were claimed with Ian Grindrod in 1981, 1982, 1985 and 1987.

The rally, which is based at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, takes place on April 2-4.

 

 

 

 

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