Circuit to host Junior series race
The Circuit of Ireland is to be part of a new Junior series for under-25 drivers which is being introduced to the European Rally Championship next season.
It is one of a number of initiatives being proposed for the 2014 ERC series along with qualifying stages to decide start positions and a new manufacturers' championship.
The Junior championship will be spread over seven of the 12 rounds with the Circuit included alongside Rally Liepaja, Rallye Azores, Ypres Rally, Barum Rally Zlin, Rallye du Valais and the Tour de Corse.
It will be restricted to drivers of R2 category cars running on control tyres and fuel to cut costs with the winner being offered a five-rally programme for 2015 in a four-wheel-drive R5 car.
Kris Meeke, who began his career in the Junior World championship, says he would love to see young Irish drivers take up the challenge, especially with their home round included.
"It's a massive opportunity and an absolute must for young drivers from this neck of the woods to do the Junior championship when it comes to the Circuit of Ireland next season. It will a great chance to showcase their ability against strong European opposition," he said.
Supporting the initiative, too, is Marty McCormack, a former British Junior champion.
McCormack said: "It's fantastic news for the Circuit and superb news for young Irish drivers. Junior championships are a great place for young drivers to shine through as well as gain valuable experience. The European series will be an ideal springboard to go forward into the World championship."