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Ulster Rally KO spells end of Irish Tarmac and British Championships

 

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The Ulster Rally organisers, the Northern Ireland Motor Club, have taken the decision to call off the event scheduled for August 21/22

The Ulster Rally organisers, the Northern Ireland Motor Club, have taken the decision to call off the event scheduled for August 21/22

The Ulster Rally organisers, the Northern Ireland Motor Club, have taken the decision to call off the event scheduled for August 21/22

August's Ulster Rally has been cancelled, effectively ending hopes of the major Irish Tarmac and British Championships being completed this year.

Only one round of either championship has taken place this season due to the Covid-19 restrictions and, although the motorsport situation in both the UK and Ireland is due to be reassessed in June, the Ulster Rally organisers, the Northern Ireland Motor Club, have taken the decision to call off the event scheduled for August 21/22.

A joint statement from event director Richard Swanston and NIMC chairman Alan Elliott says: "The current lockdown conditions required to contain the spread of the virus are preventing the organising team from safely carrying out the necessary preparations for the event, including the very important special stage public relations work.

"The event is dependent on the support of local communities and residents and we do not want to increase the risk to them, nor our volunteers. A significant amount of work has already been done by our volunteers and we extend our thanks to them for that, with the intention that this will be carried forward to the August 2021 event."

The rally was due to be part of both the Irish and British championships but, with the majority of the other earlier rounds already called off and little hope that any rallies can take place in the foreseeable future, the Ulster decision will almost certainly force the annulment of the two major competitions in the British Isles.

The decision came on the day the British Touring Car Championship announced a revised provisional calendar for a resumption of the series starting in August, perhaps with spectators excluded but such an option is not available to rallying across large swathes of countryside.

Meanwhile, the BTCC is planning to run nine of the 10 meetings scheduled for this season, packing in 27 races between August and mid-November. But Alan Gow, the BTCC chief executive, says the revised programme remains conditional "upon receiving appropriate government directives and approvals".

The revised season is now scheduled to start on August 1 at Donington Park, beginning a run of four events in just five weekends, with Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Knockhill completing the opening month of action.

September events at Thruxton and Silverstone are then followed by October race dates at Croft and Snetterton, finishing at Brands Hatch in November.

Reigning BTCC champion Colin Turkington has already said he would approve of a condensed programme, even back-to-back weekends, if it meant the 2020 series could finally get underway.

This year should have seen Turkington bidding to become the first five-time winner of the premier British series and he admits it has been frustrating waiting for the season to start.

However the Ulsterman, sitting out the lockdown at his adopted home in England, fully acknowledges that racing should only resume when it is safe to do so.

Meanwhile, Formula One is planning to start its 2020 season on July 5 in Austria after the French Grand Prix became the 10th race this year to be postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Grand Prix is expected to be held behind closed doors on July 19.

Belfast Telegraph