Belfast Telegraph

Circuit chiefs can see Skoda on horizon

BY SAMMY HAMILL

The organisers of the Circuit of Ireland are "hopeful" Skoda will join Peugeot in contesting the Easter event next year.

The Czech manufacturer announced they would be taking part in "selected rounds" of the 2014 European championship with a two-car team of exciting young Finn Easpekka Lappi and German Sepp Wiegand.

However, they did not specify which rounds of the 12-event ERC series their drivers would appear in. But with the Circuit listed as one of the flagship events of the championship, Circuit director Bobby Willis is hopeful we will see Skoda back in Northern Ireland.

"They won here in 2012 with Juho Hanninen when the Circuit was part of the old Intercontinental Challenge and I know they enjoyed the experience so I'm hopeful we will be on their ERC list," he said.

"Sepp Wiegand was also here in 2012, so he has that experience to call on, but it would be very exciting to see young Lappi – he is definitely one to watch."

Skoda won this year's European championship with Jan Kopecky but he will not defend the title and instead is heading east to contest the Asia Pacific series where Lappi won three times in 2013.

Indeed, the Finn won the APRC's final round in China and immediately headed for Switzerland where he won the last round of the European series, the Rally du Valais – the 22-year-old becoming the first driver to win back-to-back on two continents in a week.

The Swiss event was a rally in which Ireland's former World S2000 champion Craig Breen, driving for the Peugeot Academy team, started favourite but road penalties cost him dearly and he finished third, well adrift of Lappi.

Peugeot have already announced their plans for 2014 with Breen and Dutchman Kevin Abbring contesting the ERC series, including the April 17-19 Circuit.

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