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Rally NI organisers seek feedback on plans for WRC 2022 


Bobby Willis

Bobby Willis

Bobby Willis

The drive to bring the World Rally Championship to Northern Ireland in 2022 is stepping up a gear.

Plans to stage Rally Northern Ireland in August this year were abandoned in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the reluctance by the local tourism authorities to commit support in these uncertain times.

Buoyed up by encouragement from FIA Rallies Commission chief Yves Matton and the Championship promoters, plus backing from drivers like Toyota's Elfyn Evans and Hyundai's Craig Breen - both past winners on Northern Ireland roads - the organisers are pressing ahead with plans for next year.

To help them gauge support for the British round of the series being staged here in August 2022 they have launched an on-line survey, seeking information on how many people are likely to travel to Northern Ireland to see the event or be part of it.

The survey on the rally's website states: "Rally Northern Ireland is hoping to become the UK's round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2022. To help us achieve this, we are asking people to complete our survey to let us know if you would travel to Northern Ireland to watch the world's greatest drivers take part in the world's most exciting sport."

Former Circuit of Ireland director Bobby Willis, who along with North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, has led the campaign to bring the World Championship back to Northern Ireland, says he hopes the results of the survey will help them strengthen the case for funding from the Stormont Executive and the decision-makers at Tourism NI.

The Belfast-based event was intended as a replacement for Wales Rally GB this year, but its cancellation resulted in the UK being left without a WRC round for only the third time ever. But FIA rally director Matton has said the UK "definitely has its place" in the WRC in the future.

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"Bobby Willis and his team have put in a lot of effort to bring the World Rally Championship to Northern Ireland and we were very disappointed there would be no rally in the UK this year," he said.

"We can also see that the UK team is working hard to propose new solutions and innovative proposals. Discussions are continuing with WRC Promoter for 2022 and we look forward to working through the proposals that are made."

And the WRC Promoter's managing director Jona Siebel added: "It's sad the WRC will not enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland this year, but the pandemic continues to impact the global economy."

Willis, who elevated the Circuit of Ireland to Intercontinental Challenge and European Championship status between 2012 and 2016, remains hopeful he can now bring the WRC here next year.

"The WRC Promoter sees the value in coming to Northern Ireland, they are definitely enthusiastic and want to come here. If they were not then they would not be talking to us," he said.

"Everyone involved is trying to make this happen - no stone is being left unturned."

The survey is available at: https://www.rallynorthernireland.com and those responding will be entered into a prize draw, which include a stay in a four-star hotel during the rally as well as subscriptions to WRC+ live television coverage.

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