Tarmac series cut to six rounds as it dances to different tune
The 2018 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship will be reduced to six rounds following the cancellation of the Galway International, traditionally the opening event in early February.
The premier Irish series was launched with a new sponsor, the London-based music collective Dance to Tipperary, in Armagh at the weekend where it was revealed the organisers had elected not to bring in a new rally to replace Galway.
It is understood they considered including the Wexford Rally or possibly an event in Belgium as well as the option of including the Rally Isle of Man again, but decided to cut the championship to six rounds pending the anticipated Galway return in 2019.
It means the championship will start with the West Cork Rally in March followed by the first of two rounds north of the border, the Easter Stages in April, which replaces the Circuit of Ireland, and later in the year, the Ulster International in August.
The other rounds are the Rally of the Lakes in Killarney in May, the Donegal International in June and the Cork '20' in September.
Dance to Tipperary, replacing Clonakilty Black Pudding, will be the official title partner of the championship for the next three years as well as the co-production and distribution partner for its TV and media feeds, the idea being to create an Irish sports version of the hugely successful Red Bull Media House which features the World championship.
Dance To Tipperary also intends to appoint select brand ambassadors for the championship's TV, radio, and online media output. These will be selected from drivers and co-drivers, radio and TV personalities, YouTube stars, musicians and other long-time associates.
"Dance To Tipperary is a name familiar to many rally fans," said Tarmac Rally Organisers' Association chairman David Gray.
"We look forward to working with them for the 2018 championship and in the years ahead to further build the ITRC as a championship with an even greater experience for participants and supporters alike."
The 2017 Tarmac title was won by Sam Moffett, one of four the Monaghan man carried off this year. He became the first driver to win the premier series as well as the Irish National and Forestry championships and the FIA Celtic Trophy.
He and his brother Josh are expected to be among the top contenders again next season when the series makes its belated start on St Patrick's weekend in Cork.
Championship dates: March 17-18 - West Cork International Rally; April 6-7 - UAC Easter Rally; May 5-6 - Killarney International Rally of the Lakes; June 15-16-17 - Donegal International Rally; August 17-18 - Ulster International Rally; September 29-30 - Cork 20 International.