The Ulster Automobile Club are to relinquish control of the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Ireland’s most famous motorsport event is to pass into the hands of Belfast rally consultant and former co-driver Bobby Willis.
The UAC will still ‘own’ the event but from 2010 it will be run by Willis and a new team including current World championship co-driver from Bangor, Michael Orr.
Willis is perhaps best known locally as the man behind the hugely successful floodlit super special stage at Stormont which launched Rally Ireland in 2007.
But he also runs a worldwide rally maps business.
He says the Circuit of Ireland is “a sleeping giant” which he wants to re-awaken.
“I have a vision to re-establish the Circuit of Ireland as one of the leading rallies in Europe, providing all stakeholders with a motorsport event Ireland can be proud of,” he said.
“No matter where you travel in the world, the Circuit of Ireland holds a special place in peoples’ hearts – I want to re-invigorate that nostalgia and host a rally worthy of its heritage.
“In essence, I want to build interest in the rally beyond our current base, hopefully bringing new championships and funding partners to the Circuit.”
On the decision to hand over control to the Willis team, UAC chairman Nigel Hughes explained: “Over recent years changing requirements and regulations have seen an ever increasing workload for the Club’s part-time volunteers.
“We are delighted that a man of Bobby Willis’s experience has agreed to devote the required time to help safeguard the rally’s future development through fresh ideas and hopefully new investment.”
In 2010, the Circuit of Ireland will be staged during its traditional Easter slot with precise details to be released soon.