Belfast Telegraph

New World order beckons local drivers

Moves have been made to take Ireland back into the world rally championship.

During a flying visit to Ireland last week, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, vice-president of motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, met with Motorsport Ireland president Joe Corcoran and Irish senator Marc MacSharry to discuss the possibility of Rally Ireland returning to the series in 2012 or 2013. Sligo senator MacSharry has long been a strong supporter of Rally Ireland and he took the opportunity of Ben Sulayem’s visit to press Ireland’s case for a recall to the world championship.

"With Sligo as its lead, Ireland proved to the world that it can successfully bid for, win and host global events such as the WRC," said MacSharry.

"In 2007, in particular, we displayed our capability to not just compete, but beat the best the rest could offer.

"The Irish round of the WRC ranked second in the championship and first in terms of television viewers worldwide.

Some 800 million people viewed aspects of Rally Ireland that year between live and delayed coverage.

"Such exposure, together with direct revenue and tourism generation, is too big to ignore — especially in these recessionary times."

MacSharry said he had also extended an invitation for the FIA hierarchy to come to Ireland.

"As a prelude to the WRC's return I intend to illicit support to mount a bid for Sligo to host the World Motor Sport Council meeting in 2011 and the prestigious FIA General Assembly and prize giving in 2013," MacSharry said yesterday.

Ben Sulayem, who was here to sign a motorsport research agreement with the University of Ulster on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, commented: "Senator MacSharry's support for motorsport is most welcome and his enthusiasm and determination for Ireland's hosting of FIA events is encouraging.

"Given Ireland's long association with motorsport, its track record on Rally Ireland, together with the work and commitment of Motorsport Ireland and Senator MacSharry, clearly I would be supportive of any Irish initiative to host the WRC or other FIA events."

Rally Ireland, jointly funded by the Northern Ireland and Irish governments, was last staged in January 2009 and has not been included in the revamped WRC calendar for next year.

Belfast Telegraph

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