Thousands of rally fans are expected to descend upon Dundalk, Banbridge and Newry and the surrounding areas this weekend as the 74th UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland takes to the roads.
There are lots of opportunities for fans to see the high-speed cars during each of the 15 stages of the world’s second oldest rally which takes place across 270km of some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland.
The ceremonial start takes place at the Courthouse at Earls Street in Dundalk on Saturday lunchtime with crowds expected to gather to see the cars from around 11am before the first car is waved off at 12.30pm.
The town will be celebrating the start of the event with a Rally Show in the Market Square. Attractions will include face painting, bouncy castles, a Rally Simulator, music and live reports from radio station LMFM.
On Saturday afternoon spectators will be able to see the rally south of Banbridge on roads in areas including Loughbrickland, Creevy, Poyntzpass, Jerrettspass and near Bessbrook.
Drivers on the gruelling two-day event will take a rest break in Solitude Park in Banbridge around 4.30pm on Saturday.
This will provide an opportunity for the public to meet and greet the drivers, view the powerful rally cars as well as seeing the 2010 Dakar winning VW Touareg, on its first visit anywhere in the UK or Ireland.
Later the drivers will embark on an 18-mile marathon night stage which takes place south of Banbridge on Saturday night through the Kingsmill, Tyrone Ditches and Glaskermore areas.
On Sunday the Circuit moves to Newry where stages will take place near Castleblayney and Crossmaglen at Fincairn Hill, Coolcair and Cornoonagh Hill.
Cars will arrive back at Carnbane Industrial estate in Newry in the afternoon before the winner takes to the podium outside Newry Town Hall around 5.15pm.
Roads will close around one hour before the stages are due to start.
Now boasting IRC Supporter Event status, in a major coup for the organisers of the world’s second oldest rally, the eyes of the rallying world will be on competitors and organisers this weekend.
The Circuit plays host to a number of championships including the second round of the hotly contested Citroen Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
Spectators are asked to follow Marshal’s instructions for their own safety.
A full entry list and precise maps for the locations of each of the 15 stages are available in the Circuit of Ireland programmes which can be purchased from retailers in the area before and during the event. For a full list of retailers go to www.circuitofireland.net
You can also keep up to date with Circuit of Ireland news and results on Facebook.
The Circuit of Ireland Rally is the second oldest rally in the world. Steeped in history, many epic battles can be recounted after almost 80 years of rallying on the Emerald Isle.
The event was first organised in 1931 and over the years the event expanded and eventually transformed into a true ‘circuit’ of Ireland. In the past competitors tackled more than 1,000 stage miles around the island, in what was a five-day marathon rally.
During those golden years, the event was the longest tarmac rally in the world, and attracted many world famous names to Irish shores.
The likes of Colin McRae, Hannu Mikkola and Henri Toivonen are just a few select names that have graced the ‘Circuit’ stages.
Modern day rallying requires shorter, more compact events, and the ‘Circuit’ has moved with the times. The event now runs with a compact two-day format, but has retained its prestigious name and remains a tough challenge for competitors.