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Rally stars turn back clock for retro event

By Sammy Hamill

The way it used to be and the way it is now will come together when the Circuit of Ireland Retro Rally meets up with the Down Rally on the weekend after next.

For the first time an event that re-enacts rallying as it was in the 1960s and before will join forces with a round of the current Hankook Northern Ireland championship.

On Saturday week, the penultimate round of the NI series takes place in the forests of east Down with the likes of champion-elect Kenny McKinstry and Stuart Biggerstaff in action in their modern four-wheel-drive WRC Subarus.

But preceding them through the gravel roads of Tollymore, Castlewellan and Rostrevor forests will be the competitors in the Circuit Retro which features cars from another era — Minis, MGs, Ford Escorts, Triumphs and even the odd Volvo Amazon or two.

The Retro, which turns the clock back to the days when the Circuit of Ireland largely consisted of navigation and driving tests, hillclimbs and speed tests, is based at Lisburn and starts on Friday week from the Island Civic Centre. The test venues on day one include Wallace Park.

On Saturday morning competitors in both events will converge on Castlewellan, base for the Down Rally.

The Retro cars will lead the way through the forests before they head on tackle a hillclimb at Gullion Mountain, leaving the way clear the NI championship competitors to continue their special stage competition.

On Sunday the old cars will be bound for the Ards Peninsula and a final day of tests, some of them centred on Kirkistown race circuit. The finish of the much-anticipated event will be back at the Premier Inn in Lisburn.

Multi-Irish autotest champion Eamon Byrne was the Retro winner last year in his Mini Cooper while McKinstry, already uncatchable in this season’s Northern Ireland championship, will be bidding for his third Down Rally win in a row.

Belfast Telegraph

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