Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Irish rally continues Easter tradition

Derek McGarrity aims to make a flying start to the NI championship
Derek McGarrity aims to make a flying start to the NI championship

A new Easter Rally will replace the Circuit of Ireland this year.

It follows the decision of event director Bobby Willis to withdraw the main international division of the rally from the re-vamped European championship because of funding issues.

His decision back in December came just hours before the announcement of the 2013 European calendar in Paris, a move which took even officials of the Ulster Automobile Club, the rally permit holders, by surprise.

But they vowed there would still be a rally at Easter, a tradition which dates back to 1931. Now they have revealed it will be a one-day event on Easter Saturday, March 30, centering on Lisburn and Ballynahinch, and will be part of the Irish Tarmac and Northern Ireland championships.

"It was a huge disappointment when we realised the European championship would not be coming here this year but we were determined we would run a rally on the traditional date for the Circuit of Ireland," said UAC chairman Nigel Hughes.

"The Easter Rally will be a national category event incorporating round two of the Irish Tarmac championship and round three of the Northern Ireland championship.

"The Galway Rally last weekend, first round of the Tarmac series, was a resounding success with a huge entry and we are anticipating a similar response for our Easter Rally."

There will be a ceremonial start in Lisburn city centre from 9.30am on the Saturday morning with the cars leaving at one minute intervals until around 11.30am to begin the competitive action across 100 miles of special stages in counties Antrim and Down. Ballynahinch will host the service park and the finish which is scheduled for 5.45pm.

Meanwhile, the first round of the Carryduff Forklift NI championship, the North Armagh Club's Eurocables Stages at Kirkistown, takes place on Saturday week with last year's winner and reigning champion Derek McGarrity expected to head the entry list ahead of his bid for a sixth Easter victory.

McGarrity finished fourth in Galway where triple British champion Keith Cronin came from behind to edge out Eugene Donnelly in a close finish.

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