Down Rally on the up in revamped UK series
Two Northern Ireland motor clubs, Rathfriland and Ballynahinch, have taken a bold step by relaunching the Down Rally as part of new-look UK championship.
It will be part of the Protyre MSA National Asphalt Championship which itself is being relaunched after a year out to plot a new way forward. As well as coming to Ulster for the first time it will also include rounds in Belgium, the Isle of Man and Wales.
The Down Rally, run by the Rathfriland Club, has been part of the Northern Ireland championship for a number of years and was due to be held again next month as a gravel event. But, due to lack of available forestry mileage, the organisers took the decision to cancel it.
But behind the scenes they have been working on an entirely new project for 2018 which will see them combine with near neighbours Ballynahinch to run a closed road tarmac event next July.
Sponsored by Carryduff Forklift, it will continue to be a round of the NI series but the joint organisers have looked farther afield and the rally has been accepted as part of the UK national asphalt championship. It will consist of six rounds starting with the Tour of Epynt next March followed by the Manx National in May, the Rally van Wervik in Belgium in June before coming to Co Down on July 21.
The remaining rounds are the Mewla Rally in August and the Cheviot Rally in Northumberland in October.
They make up a revised asphalt championship after it was decided to 'rest' the series in 2017 following the retirement of its long-time co-ordinator Andrew Haill.
The new BTRDA team are promising a TV highlights package from every round with the coverage also being able to view online via the championship website and Facebook pages. There will also be live streaming from each round on the Special Stage Facebook page, and live radio interviews on RallyFM.net.
Carryduff Forklift is a sister company of David Greer Motorsport, stalwart supporters of the McGrady Insurance NI championship and currently challenging for this year's title through Jonny Greer. With maximum scores from three rounds, he is second in the standings, six points behind champion Derek McGarrity, going into the Tyrone forests for the Omagh Club's Bushwhacker Rally on September 23.