Circuit harks back to the former Causeway stages for 85th birthday

Causeway Coast and Glens Mayor, Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan (left) and Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis (centre) were joined by Portrush co-driver Crawford Henderson (right) at the Dark Hedges to launch the Circuit in the Causeway Coast and Glens region.  Crews from all over the world will stop at the Dark Hedges for a passage control whilst Bushmills Distillery will be the venue for a rally regroup.

Causeway Coast and Glens Mayor, Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan (left) and Circuit of Ireland Event Director Bobby Willis (centre) were joined by Portrush co-driver Crawford Henderson (right) at the Dark Hedges to launch the Circuit in the Causeway Coast and Glens region. Crews from all over the world will stop at the Dark Hedges for a passage control whilst Bushmills Distillery will be the venue for a rally regroup.

The 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally is set to have an incredible first day of competitive rallying on Friday 8th April, according to event director Bobby Willis.

The drivers take in stunning stages over Glendun and Torr Head for the first time in the Circuit for over 20 years as part of the three day rally spectacular held from 7 -9 April.

Drivers from all over the world including current FIA ERC leader and winner of Rally Canarias, Alexey Lukyanuk as well as Welsh star Elfyn Evans and Co Cork’s Keith Cronin will take in some of Northern Ireland’s most famous scenery on competitive stages set in the Causeway Coast and Glens region as well as visits to Bushmills Distillery and the Dark Hedges, made famous by hit TV series Games of Thrones.

The Circuit of Ireland Rally is one of the oldest rallies in the world, second only to the famed Monte Carlo Rally.  

Last year the Circuit attracted almost 80,000 spectators and this year over 20 nations will be represented amongst the 140 strong crews, with over 60% of the entry list originating from outside Northern Ireland.

Event director Bobby Willis said: “It has been many years since the Circuit of Ireland Rally has been in this spectacular North Coast area.

“It’s wonderful to be back in this area steeped in motorsport history with an exceptional route combining dramatic scenery with thrilling roads.

“I’m most appreciative to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council for so enthusiastically supporting the Rally.

“For the first time ever we are joining two of the biggest and most iconic stages of the Circuit of Ireland – Glendun and Torr Head – into one marathon stage stretching over 31 km.

“This will certainly test the drivers to the limit as well as show off some of our most beautiful scenery.”

The route will also feature a passage control in the Dark Hedges and a 15 minute regroup at Bushmills Distillery. Cars will also service in Ballymoney’s Joey Dunlop Centre highlighting another famous and legendary name in Northern Ireland’s motorsport history.  

 Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Michelle Knight-McQuillan said: “This is an exciting new development for the north coast and one I am personally looking forward to.

“The Borough has attracted some of the world’s top sporting events and now I am extremely pleased to be able to announce that the Circuit of Ireland Rally is coming to the north coast, and joining our prestigious history. 

“With some tremendous competitive stages, certainly some of the best in the Rally, Council aims to support the event by promoting through tourism to welcome local and international visitors to the area.”

The Mayor added, “The Circuit of Ireland Rally is considered one of the European Rally Championships flagship events and gives the area a global platform.

“I have no doubt it will also prove a boost to local businesses as we encourage visitors to stay in the Borough and enjoy what the rest of the north coast has to offer.

“Council congratulates Bobby Willis and his team as they continue to develop the event and attract interest.

“This is extremely encouraging and positive for a long standing event such as this and I look forward to enjoying the Circuit of Ireland Rally”.

The Mayor, Cllr Michelle Knight- McQuillan and Circuit event director were joined by Portrush co-driver and local businessman Crawford Henderson at the Dark Hedges to launch the Causeway Coast and Glens Circuit stages.

Crawford Henderson who competes with Draperstown driver Camillus Bradley congratulated Bobby Willis on bringing the Circuit back to the North Coast region.

“It’s wonderful to have rally stages on my home turf and the Glens ‘mega’ stage is certainly going to be a challenging one due to its 31km length,” he said.

“Tyre choices will certainly play an important part in helping teams last the pace.

“I competed in my first Circuit back in 1985 and it continues to be a thrilling and historic rally which attracts top home and international crews.”

The Borough of the Causeway Coast and Glens is famed worldwide for its breath-taking scenery and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

This year with Circuit highlights being broadcast on Eurosport and their partner networks as well as many other stations throughout the UK and Ireland, even more viewers will get the chance to admire the region’s coast, hills and glens.  

The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on 7th – 9th April and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship.

The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship.

Last year, the Circuit of Ireland attracted almost 80,000 spectators across the three day rally festival and a global TV audience of 40 million.

In addition to the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, other regional councils supporting the 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally are; Belfast City Council; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Newry, Mourne and Down District; Ards and North Down; Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council; Antrim and Newtownabbey; Mid and East Antrim Council. 

Entries closed on Tuesday 15 March.

The Circuit team would also welcome additional volunteers to help manage each of the stages and anyone interested can contact organisers via the volunteer page on www.circuitofireland.net.

Meanwhile, champion boxer Carl Frampton and wife Christine were joined by media personalities, Mayors and Councillors as well as TV mentalist David Meade at this year’s special Circuit of Ireland Test Day at the Eikon Complex, Maze near Lisburn.

Top rally drivers Stephen Wright from Monaghan, Carryduff based Jonny Greer, Alan Carmichael from Ballymoney and young rising star William Creighton from Moira gave up their valuable time to provide guests with high speed thrills combined with sharp twists and turns under ‘Test’ conditions.

Jonny and Stephen brought their R5s whilst Alan Carmichael showcased his new Skoda Fabia and 18 year old William Creighton who will undertake his first Circuit in 2016 drove his Peugeot 208 R2.

Event Director Bobby Willis thanked all the drivers for their input and contribution on the day.

For up-to-date information visit http://www.circuitofireland.net .  Follow on www.facebook.com/circuitofireland or www.twitter.com/CircuitIreland . 

For ERC details visit http://www.fiaerc.com/press