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Handbrake off as autotest starts wheels turning again 

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Last year's championship was brought to a halt after just one round back in February and many of this season's events were called off in the first three months of the year

Last year's championship was brought to a halt after just one round back in February and many of this season's events were called off in the first three months of the year

Last year's championship was brought to a halt after just one round back in February and many of this season's events were called off in the first three months of the year

It has been a while but wheels will start to turn again as motorsport in Northern Ireland returns this weekend. 

With the easing of coronavirus restrictions, the Larne Club are staging the first round of the Northern Ireland Autotest Championship at Nutts Corner on Saturday.

And having been starved of competition for more than a year, drivers have flooded the entry list, surpassing the 52 maximum starters allowed.

They include multi British and Irish champion Steven Ferguson, members of Northern Ireland's Ken Wharton Trophy winning teams such as Robin Lyons, Paul Blair, Paul Mooney and Mark King and champions from the past like Robert Dickson and Noel Cochrane.

Last year's championship was brought to a halt after just one round back in February and many of this season's events were called off in the first three months of the year.

But with Covid-19 cases falling rapidly and the Northern Ireland Executive relaxing the rules on outdoor sport, the Larne Club are first to get an official championship up and running. And the organisers of the series are hopeful it will last beyond one round this time.

Other motorsport disciplines are exploring options in the light of the new dispensations, including the possibility of racing resuming at the Kirkistown circuit.

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Back in October, 500 Club officials had to abandon their race meeting after it had already started when they were informed local motor racing did not qualify as an elite sport.

But when rallying will be able to return is unclear. It presents greater difficulties, not least how to prevent spectators attending events which take place on public roads or in forests.

No rallies have been staged in Northern Ireland for more than a year, while this season's cancellations include the Circuit of Ireland which had been scheduled for the beginning of April.

Organisers of the Ulster Rally are pushing ahead for plans for their event which has been moved back from its regular August slot to a new date in November.

It will be part of the British Championship which is due to kick off with a new event at Oulton Park race track on May 31.


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