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Circuit's World Rally hopes are running out of road


New champion: Donagh Kelly

New champion: Donagh Kelly

New champion: Donagh Kelly

Prospects of the Circuit of Ireland being elevated to the World Rally Championship have receded in the wake of the Welsh government's decision to continue supporting Rally GB.

The Irish event, currently a round of the European Championship, had been mooted as a viable replacement if the organisers of Rally GB had not been able to secure future funding from the Welsh Assembly.

But now it has been confirmed that the rally will remain in Wales up until 2018 and WRC promoter Oliver Ciesla has indicated it will remain part of the Championship for next year at least.

There are still question marks over a number of other European rounds, including Rally France and Rally Portugal, but the major manufacturer teams are pushing for China to be added to the list rather than another event in Europe.

Circuit of Ireland director Bobby Willis has always refused to comment on the speculation, saying only he was "delighted the rally was included in the conversation about the future of the World Championship".

Meanwhile, next week's Todds Leap Ulster Rally will have a line-up of over 100 cars, headed by the Subaru of two-time winner Garry Jennings and the Ford Focus of Irish Tarmac Championship leader Donagh Kelly.

It also includes another former winner, Derek McGarrity, as well as the Moffett brothers, Sam and Josh, in their Ford Fiestas and a quartet of R5 cars driven by Stephen Wright, Joe McGonigle, Desi Henry and Jonny Greer.

The two-day rally, which is also a round of the Northern Ireland Championship, is based in Enniskillen and starts from Castle Coole next Friday afternoon.

Belfast Telegraph