With thousands of rally fans set to flock to the roads of the border counties to watch the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally on Easter weekend, the Environment Minister has reminded spectators of their responsibilities behind the wheel.
Speaking at a test day at Down Royal Racecourse where he saw first-hand the speed and skill used by top rally drivers, Edwin Poots urged fans and spectators attending the Rally to adhere to the DOE’s Road Safety Message – Keep the Race in its Place.
Mr Poots warned: “Young men, especially those with a keen interest in motorsport, will no doubt get a great thrill out of seeing the top rally drivers competing at high speeds.
“However we all need to be aware there is a big difference between driving on the circuit and everyday driving on the road.
“High-speed racing like the Circuit of Ireland takes place in a controlled environment in specially-designed cars driven by experienced rally drivers.
“Those skills cannot be put to the test on any road by any driver. It is too dangerous. Spectators and rally fans should be under no illusion that speed on our roads kills and wrecks lives.”
UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally Director Bobby Willis said rally organisers had given their full backing to the Keep the Race in its Place campaign.
He said: “Rallying is great fun and we are looking forward to thousands of people enjoying the exhilarating sport this Easter weekend.
“We know fans enjoy the speed, skill and excitement but we strongly urge spectators to leave it to the professionals.
“There is a huge difference between driving behaviour in a rally to everyday driving on our local roads, when you put not only yourself but other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
“I would also urge fans to obey the marshals during the rally as they do a vital job in keeping everyone safe.”
Thousands of fans are expected to descend on Dundalk to meet and greet the competitors in this year’s UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland in Dundalk town centre at 11am on Easter Saturday, 3 April, before they set off on 15 stages across counties Armagh, Monaghan, Louth and Down.
Competitors will begin a gruelling rally taking in some 270 miles across some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland.
This year the service park will be situated in Newry’s Carnbane Industrial Estate. On Saturday afternoon drivers will also have a rest break in Solitude Park, Banbridge from 4pm.
An 18-mile marathon night stage will take place south of Banbridge on Saturday night.
Stages in Monaghan will take place on Sunday with the rally finishing in Newry later that day.
Follow the latest Circuit of Ireland Rally news and more important safety messages at www.circuitofireland.net and on Facebook.