Hopes grow for a Word Rally Championship return to Ireland

A meeting of the World Rally Commission in Geneva tomorrow to discuss next season’s Word Rally Championship may increase the possibility of an event returning to the island of Ireland.

It appears a number of the European WRC rounds are fighting for their futures with two set to be dropped to facilitate races in Japan and Kenya next season.

While the UK round of the WRC may not be one of the European rounds immediately at risk, its organisers are being urged to find new locations and move away from its present base in Wales.

Previously, Rally Ireland, first run in 2007, was a cross border event based out of Sligo and was funded by both Ireland and Northern Ireland governments. In 2009 the ceremonial start was in Enniskillen. While the political situation in Northern Ireland is in a state of flux its unlikely to have any implications for tomorrow’s discussions. Classic stages like Hamilton’s Folly and Torr Head along with the region’s rich heritage in rallying are key issues for decision makers.

Ironically, last evening Motorsport Ireland held a meeting of its affiliated clubs in Portlaoise to discuss the possibility of hosting a five-day rally next year. At a time when the MI governing body and indeed all its clubs unanimously agree there are too many rallies, the possibility of hosting such an event - based on the Circuit of Ireland but with a Wild Atlantic Way theme - seems bizarre.

Should a round of the WRC come to the North, it would present another problem for that five-day rally plan.

Meanwhile, the Valvoline Irish Rally Championship continues tomorrow with the Allingham Arms Donegal Forest Rally in Bundoran. Last round winner Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) is the top seed followed by fellow Ulstermen Niall Henry (Citroen DS3 R5), Patrick O Brien (Mitsubishi) and series leader Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi). It’s an indifferent season with some drivers far from happy with a result being declared for the Limerick event that only completed two stages due to the snow.

Others on tomorrow’s entry are Ballyvourney’s Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi) and Tyrone’s Conor McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) with Down’s David Crossen (Ford Escort) heading the two-wheel drive category. Armagh’s Jason Black makes his forest rally debut in a Peugeot 208 R2 while Miltown Malbay driver Michael Hamilton (23) is in a similar situation albeit in a Ford Fiesta R2, both were finalists in last year’s Billy Coleman Young Driver of the Year award and have impressed on their tarmac outings. The first of the day’s six stages starts at 10.21am.

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