The rally was meant to count as the second round of the Irish Tarmac Championship but finding a suitable date may prove difficult given the massive number of motorsport events either side of the border. The other rounds are scheduled for May (Rally of the Lakes), June (Donegal), August (Ulster) and October (Cork 20) and there is little room for manoeuvre.
At first glance, a July date could provide the best option, however other issues will have to be factored into the equation. Should the UAC fail to find a date, the ITC will be decided on the best four from five events. The cancellation has already cost the organisers a five-figure sum.
In the meantime, Circuit of Ireland event promoter Bobby Willis is hoping to get the necessary backing to secure a round of the European Rally Championship for the 2014 Circuit of Ireland.
Willis was spearheading the promotion of an internet television channel until the cancellation of the rally. Students from South Eastern Regional College (SERC) — Northern Ireland Film School and Tyndall Productions were twinning their resources to develop www.circuitofireland.tv. It was anticipated the channel was going to broadcast 12 hours of live coverage including the ceremonial start, the service park and finish ramp, while the most audacious move to promote the event involved the live streaming of one mile of live competitive action.
The Dunlop British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch with no fewer than four champions lining up on a capacity grid. Northern Ireland’s Colin Turkington, who won the title in 2009, will pilot a brand new eBay Motors-backed BMW 125i m Sport. “It could be the best car we’ve ever built or it could take a bit of work, if it goes as well as it looks it’ll be a great package,” he said.
On his return to the BTCC he added: “The buzz and excitement about a BTCC race is something you never forget, especially at a theatre like Brands Hatch.”
Meanwhile, reigning champion Gordon Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing Team) begins his title defence alongside team-mate Matt Neal, who is chasing down a record fourth title.
Another champion, Jason Plato (MG KX Racing Team), could prove the most difficult to beat, he has racked up 74 race wins in the BTCC.
Irish interest will also include Dubliner Aron Smith in the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus. He made his BTCC debut in 2011 in a Vauxhall Vectra and last year, on the final day of the season, notched his first victory.
The organisers announced a record-breaking 32-car entry list for the season with 13 models from 11 different marques. As usual, each round will consist of three races.
Meanwhile, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship begins on Monday at Oulton Park, where Cork driver Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron team up for the fifth season.
They will campaign an Mtech-run Ferrari 458. Griffin is highly rated and considered to be one the fastest GT drivers on the circuit. Indeed, the Douglas ace is in the midst of a hectic schedule, already this week he has completed the official European Le Mans Series (ELMS) test with Ram Racing and the official World Endurance Championship (WEC) test with AF Corse, both in the south of France. Tomorrow, he has qualifying at Oulton Park with two races on Monday.
“I’m confident. Mtech have done a lot of work over the winter and I feel we are very prepared. The competition will be very tough though, with 34 cars entered. Our aim is to contend for the championship this year so it’s important for us to start with two solid results and go from there,” said Griffin.
Meanwhile, Topaz announced it will not be renewing its sponsorship of the Donegal International Rally after this year’s event on June 21/23.