Belfast Telegraph

Irish rallies in new-look British series

By Sammy Hamill

The Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster International will be part of a new-look British Rally Championship in 2016 - the first time that both of these events have been included in the series for more than 20 years.

The Ulster Rally has maintained a long association with the championship and has been a frequent winner of the 'best event' accolade, but the Circuit has been absent since 1991 when it was won by the late World champion Colin McRae.

But now it is back as the re-vamped series falls into line with the European Championship rules which govern the type of cars which can take part.

After suspending the championship for a year to determine a fresh approach, the 2016 BRC will feature the newer R-classes, spearheaded by the likes of the R5 Peugeot 208 T16 in which Craig Breen won the Circuit earlier this year.

Circuit director Bobby Willis, who last week was presented with the UTV/Business Eye Award for the Tourism and Hospitality Event of 2015 - the Circuit winning ahead of headline events such as the Tall Ships visit, said returning to the BRC was another endorsement for the rally.

"Being part of the European Championship has been a fantastic experience and the success we have enjoyed has demonstrated our capability to deliver an event of the highest professional and sporting standards," he said.

"We are delighted that all the hard work is paying off with this further national boost."

Welcoming its return to the BRC, Ben Taylor, managing director of the International Motorsports promoters, said: "The Circuit is the second biggest rally in the UK (after Rally GB) and enjoys a legendary reputation around the world.

"It is natural that the best British drivers will want to test themselves on the international stage against the ERC stars and we look forward to bringing something new to the show next year," he added.

Taylor also revealed changes to the provisional calendar which was announced in July.

Due to the on-going inquiry into the accident in which three spectators were killed during the 2014 Jim Clark Rally, two Scottish rounds - the Clark Rally and the Granite City Rally, have been omitted and will be replaced by the Nicky Grist Stages in Wales in July and the Rally Isle of Man in September.

The full 2016 calendar is: March 5/6 Mid-Wales Stages (gravel); April 8/9 Circuit of Ireland (tarmac), April30/May 1 Pirelli Carlisle Rally (gravel), June 25 Scottish Rally (gravel), July 9/10 Nicky Grist Stages (gravel/tarmac), August 19/20 Ulster Rally (tarmac), September 15/17 Rally Isle of Man (tarmac).

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