Rally driver Ryan Bradley has died after the car he was racing plunged into water during the first stage of the Down Rally near Castlewellan
Mr Bradley from the Kilrea area went into the water at Lough Island Reavy, in Kilcoo at around 11.30am.
His co-driver managed to escape and raise the alarm. He was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital.
Police divers were at the scene of the incident at Lackan Road, which is beside Lough Island Reavy reservoir.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said that co-driver person was not seriously injured.
Race organiser Rathfriland Motor Club immediately cancelled the event.
A spokesman said: " The organisers of the Down Rally can confirm that a competitor has lost his life after an accident on Stage 1 of the rally.
"One other member of the competing crew has been taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
"The thoughts of Rathfriland Motor Club, and everyone involved with the event are with the family and friends of the deceased at this time.
"As with all incidents of this nature, an investigation is now being carried out by the PSNI and appropriate local authority. Rathfriland Motor Club together with the sport's governing body, the Motor Sports Association (MSA), are co-operating fully with the investigation."
Around 70 crews were waved off at Castlewellan before heading the short distance to the first test at Loughisland Reavy. They were then set to drive to Katesbridge before returning to Castlewellan Forest Park.
The drivers were then due to move on to Annaclone, and back to Katesbridge. The final loop would have taken them back to Loughisland Reavy and Annaclone.
SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat said: “It is difficult to describe the sense of shock that has gripped this community as word spread that Ryan Bradley had lost his life in a tragic rally accident.
“Ryan was much-loved by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. To his parents, his brother and sisters and the wider family circle all we can do is extend our sympathy, support them in their hour of need and pray that in these difficult times they will find the strength to cope with their grief.
“Ryan's interest in rallying was entirely professional, always focused on safety and this tragedy can only be described as very unfortunate and difficult to understand.
“Ryan was the third generation of the well-known road construction company Patrick Bradley Limited of Kilrea.”