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Europe's leading starlets are eager to shine on Circuit

By Sammy Hamill

Published 01/04/2015

Nearly 20 of Europe's best and most ambitious young drivers will line up for the Circuit of Ireland tomorrow night.

All under 25, they will be in similar 1600cc front-wheel-drive cars, mostly Peugeots, Fords and Opels, and their aim is to take the next step up the rally ladder by scoring points in the European Junior championship.

There are awards to be won along the way but the ultimate prize for the Junior champion is a programme of ERC events next year in a four-wheel-drive R5 car.

It is why drivers from Russia to Portugal and Latvia to Hungary are here, including leader of the series, Sweden's Emil Berkqvist.

But the Irish are not to be overlooked or discounted.

Three of them have signed up for the JERC including 20-year-old Jon Armstrong from Kesh, who is fifth in the standings after a strong debut in the unfamiliar snow of Latvia where he was best of the non-Nordic drivers.

He's joined by Calvin Beattie and Kevin Eves, both making their first appearance in the series.

Chris Ingram, representing Kris Meeke's old Peugeot UK team, is back again as is Norwegian Steve Rokland, two drivers who have impressed here at the Circuit in the past.

CIRCUIT OF IRELAND Timetable:

Thursday, April 2: 11am-12.30pm: Free practice of ERC priority drivers at Croft Hill, Holywood. 12noon-1.30pm: Assembly of ERC priority drivers in Folk & Transport Museum, Holywood. 2pm-3pm: Qualifying Stage for ERC priority drivers, Croft Hill, Holywood. 3pm-4.15pm: Shakedown for remaining non-priority cars at Croft Hill, Holywood. 5.30pm-7pm: Autograph session, start order selection at City Hall, Belfast. 7pm-9pm: Ceremonial start with live music and Britain's Got Talent stars, the Innova Irish Dance Company performing at City Hall.

Friday, April 3: 9.20am: Service out - cars leave Titanic Belfast. 10.35am: Downpatrick podium event as cars leave for competitive stages. 1.20pm: Service area at Titanic Belfast (cars here for 30 minutes). 3.20pm: Downpatrick Regroup (cars here for 15 minutes). 6.15pm: Newtownards TT Stage Starts. 7.15pm: Service area at Titanic Belfast (cars here for 45 minutes).

Saturday, April 4: 8.15am: Service out - cars leave Titanic Belfast. 12noon: Hillsborough Castle Regroup (cars here for 15 minutes). 12.55pm: Service Area at Titanic Belfast (cars here for 30 minutes). 1.55pm: Lisburn Power Stage Starts. 4.30pm: Banbridge Regroup (cars here for 15 minutes). 6.25pm: Service Area at Titanic (cars here for 10 minutes). 6.45pm: Finish ceremony at Titanic Belfast.

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