Newtownards gets Circuit of Ireland backing from top rally drivers
It was a huge success last year and the Circuit of Ireland's Ards TT special stage is back on again.
Thousands of spectators packed into the streets of Newtownards on Good Friday evening last Easter to watch the rally cars sweep through the Co Down town and the organisers had no hesitation in repeating the exercise for the 2015 version of the European championship event.
It was a key element of last year’s rally, which attracted a record 25,000 people onto the streets of Newtownards, and Circuit organisers alongside hosts, Ards Borough Council, have confirmed that designated ‘hubs’ will be created this year to afford even better spectator opportunities.
It will cover close to two kilometres, taking in roads in the Castlebawn Estate on the east side of the town centre with rally cars starting off from 6pm.
Helping to launch the TT stage, alongside Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith, was former Monte Carlo Rally winner and five times Circuit champion Paddy Hopkirk who continues to be an avid follower and supporter of the Circuit of Ireland.
"Historically the streets of Newtownards have resonated with top motorsport competition when international drivers competed in the world famous Ards TT Races during the late 1920s and into the 1930s. I myself enjoyed wonderful Circuit of Ireland successes in the 50s and early 60s and I’m delighted that famous rally stars will once again be back in Newtownards for a new and refreshed town centre stage," said Hopkirk.
Also backing the town centre stage is Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen who is currently second in the European championship standings following his win in Latvia.
"Newtownards last year was unbelievable. As we drove round the town centre streets, it was amazing to see so many smiling faces,” beamed Breen. "We received a fantastic welcome."
Adding his support, Mayor Smith said: "Ards is thrilled to welcome back the Circuit of Ireland, especially given that the Newtownards TT Town centre stage was one of the highlights of last year’s rally. This prestigious weekend of rallying is recognised as one of Northern Ireland's best sporting events with a worldwide following. Hosting the Circuit will bring many benefits to the local economy and establish the borough's growing reputation as a venue for high quality events."
Entries close today and Event Director Bobby Willis said: "We’re extremely pleased with the range of entries received. We have many local names and also a huge amount of foreign teams, from as far away as Hungary, Russia, Latvia and Czech Republic.
"It’s fantastic to think that all of these drivers, who wouldn’t normally visit our shores, will have the opportunity of sampling our world famous Northern Ireland hospitality."
The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place from Thursday April 2 until Saturday April 4 and will be the third of 10 rounds in the European series. It will also be counting rounds of the Irish Tarmac and Northern Ireland championships.
For further information on the 2015 Circuit of Ireland visit www.circuitofireland.net.
Belfast Telegraph Digital