World Rally Championship

What the drivers think of Rally Northern Ireland and the WRC

Northern Ireland has a chance of hosting a round of the World Rally Championship in 2022. I get way too excited just thinking about it!

In fact, writing this over the Easter weekend makes it so easy to draw parallels to those wonderful European Rally Championship years with the Circuit of Ireland.

They are special memories. Stages running through the mighty Mourne Mountains, along the jaw-dropping Torr Head, coupled with every high-speed, technical, nitty-gritty asphalt challenge in-between.

That was the ERC, now there is every opportunity to attract the WRC to our shores. The Circuit’s DNA will no doubt run right through Rally Northern Ireland. The only difference? It will be bigger and better.

With such a reward comes a bigger challenge to make it happen. The organisers are doing their best to make it a reality but right now is your time to shine.

Click the link below to complete the easiest two-minute survey you’ll see in your life. It will make a difference.

https://www.rallynorthernireland.com/

Still unsure?

I will let 12 international rally drivers persuade you otherwise.

Rally Insight asked the best rally drivers from Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, and even Norway why they would like to see Rally Northern Ireland on the next WRC calendar.

Andreas Mikkelsen

2011 and 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

AM: Yes I would love to see Northern Ireland have a round in the WRC. I have done many rallies in the UK and Ireland and I loved every one of them!

It is for sure different from any other round and I am sure it would be a big challenge for everyone.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

AM: Its narrow roads, bumpy tarmac, and of course the passionate fans.

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Northern Ireland? 

AM: I have done many rallies but the challenge to push the limits on roads like in Northern Ireland gives you a real feeling of speed.

Chris Ingram

2019 European Rally Champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

CI: I would love to see Rally Northern Ireland join the WRC. The country has some of the best roads I’ve ever driven on, and for the WRC to showcase that is a massive opportunity.

From a personal point of view, It would be a phenomenal chance to have an event which feels close to home.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

CI: The unique roads and the general atmosphere. There is so much passion for rallying on the island of Ireland.

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

CI: My favourite memory over there was competing on the Circuit of Ireland in 2014, my third ERC event. I crashed out of the Junior class lead but still won the Colin McRae Flat Out Award, which was presented by Kris Meeke.

I also have special childhood memories of watching my father Jon compete on the West Cork Rally in 2006 and ‘07.

Alastair Fisher

Leading Irish Tarmac Rally driver

1-2. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC? What is special about rallying in Ireland?

AF: Yes, it would be spine-tingling for Northern Ireland to become a round of the World Rally Championship. We have so much to offer competitors and travelling fans here; our welcome, our stages, and our enthusiasm for rallying is renowned around the world.

Having competed on over twenty World Championship rallies and experiencing the magnitude of these events, I am confident our organising team will have no problem stepping up to mark to deliver a spectacle we can all be proud of that will resonate around the world.

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

AF: My most vivid childhood memories are from the late 1990s, the Circuit of Ireland rallies with Uncle Bertie piloting the silver R555 FEL Impreza. The town centre services and the crowd-lined Irish tarmac lanes are just those engraved sights that you never forget.

Declan Boyle

2014 Irish Tarmac Rally Champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

DB: Yes definitely I would love to see this happening. It is great for our sport, country, and the hospitality industry. 

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

DB: Rallying in Ireland is really special. We have had so many great drivers come from here and I suppose it all came from the bad roads we have had!

It’s the nature of the roads that makes it so exciting 

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

DB: My favourite memories are winning the Donegal International Rally and Circuit of Ireland both in 2014.

If Rally Northern Ireland happens I will definitely take part, it would be great to get back at it for sure.

Donagh Kelly

2015 Irish Tarmac Rally Champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

DK: Northern Ireland is steeped in motorsport history and has a real place on the WRC calendar.

Northern Ireland has history in motorsport from the early 1900s. It has harvested some names synonymous with all forms of motorsport worldwide: Joey Dunlop, John Watson, Eddie Irvine, Fred Gallagher, Terry Harryman, Kris Meeke, and all the motorcycle heroes…

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

DK: The freedom of closed road rallying in some of the most scenic locations in the world – coupled with a hearty welcome.

David Bogie

2011 British Rally Champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

DB: Absolutely, I think Ireland is overdue another round of the WRC.

The quality of the stages makes for a spectacle that can rival any of the other rounds in the championship. 

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

DB: The atmosphere. The atmosphere on the stages, in the service areas, and the surrounding pubs, restaurants, and hotels always make for an enjoyable trip regardless of the result.  

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

DB: Winning Donegal National in 2016 in my Mk2 Escort is my favourite memory from competing in Ireland. It’s the one all the modified guys want to win.

Tom Cave

BRC event winner

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

TC: With the disappointment of losing Wales Rally GB from the 2021 WRC calendar and beyond, I believe it’s important to have a round within the British Isles on the 2022 WRC calendar.

I firmly believe Rally Northern Ireland has the infrastructure and stages to offer a unique challenge for the best rally drivers in the world. 

2. What is special about rallying in Northern Ireland?

TC: Fantastic stages, which offer such a mix of roads; from fast, technical stages over the Sperrin Mountains to the three-dimensional, cresty stage of Torr Head.

Without forgetting to mention the passion for rallying Irish folk have. 

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Northern Ireland? 

TC: Driving Torr Head on the Circuit of Ireland in 2016. Albeit nursing a damaged transmission, we still managed to have fun and enjoy this spectacular stage.

Meirion Evans

BRC and ITRC regular

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

ME: Yes, I have done most of my rallying in Ireland and the sport is very well supported out there.

It’s always embraced by the communities and towns; you’re always made to feel welcome as a competitor.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

ME: The stages are really special, demanding, and unique. You won’t find roads like it anywhere else in the world. It’s a special place to go rallying.

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

ME: Probably scoring maximum Irish Tarmac points on the Cork 20 in 2019. We were the first overseas crew to do so in about 12-15 years.

We just missed out on the win but hopefully we can be back across the water in search of that win sooner rather than later.

Jonny Greer

2017 Northern Irish Rally Champion

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

JG: Yes, I think every rally fan would want a WRC event in their own country. It raises the profile of the sport at every level.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

JG: It’s difficult to describe. I think the rallying history along with the nature of Irish roads makes it a unique challenge for anyone.

Esapekka Lappi described it as “Finland on tarmac” and I think that’s the best way to put it! 

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Northern Ireland? 

JG: There are so many to choose from. The Circuit of Ireland in 2016 was a highlight; Craig [Breen] and Scott [Martin] won the rally in our Citroen DS3 R5.

Winning the NI championship in 2017 was another highlight for me too.

Josh McErlean

Hyundai Motorsport Junior driver

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

JMcE: WRC Rally Northern Ireland would be a dream for me. I’ve always looked at Torr head as one of the best roads in the world – to see a full flight Rally1 car over it would be something else.

I’d do anything to be on the start line of that one.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

JMcE: It’s home and it’s unique – there are so many rally fanatics on this island.

The roads are something else, it would be an eye-opener for many of the visitors.  

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Northern Ireland? 

JMcE: Ulster 2018 – Glendun stage – we struggled with tyre choice on the first loop of stages.

We got into the groove on the second pass and took a chunk of time out of the leaders. It was just one of those stages – and it was raining!

Jon Armstrong

Junior WRC driver

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

JA: I would love to see the WRC come to Northern Ireland as the rally community is huge and the stages are unbelievable.

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

JA: Rallying in Ireland is really fast and narrow, with bumps and jumps. It is very alien for drivers that are not born here. It’s like Finland on tarmac. 

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Ireland? 

JA: I remember watching Rally Ireland in 2007 and ‘09 which inspired me. It would be great to inspire the next generation of youngsters once again.

Of course, I have had some good days behind the wheel in Ireland too, especially in and around the area where the rally should take place.

So it would be unreal for me to compete on my home rally in the WRC.

William Creighton

Junior WRC driver

1. Would you like Rally Northern Ireland to join the WRC?

WC: Yes, the chance to bring a global series to our doorstep is an amazing opportunity.

It is the perfect opportunity to showcase our country, bring in money to the local economy, and let local drivers put it up against the best in the world. 

2. What is special about rallying in Ireland?

WC: The culture and friendliness of locals and competitors, and the unique roads. 

3. What is your favourite personal memory of rallying in Northern Ireland? 

WC: 2016 Circuit of Ireland – it was a round of the ERC which made it a huge event with many different nationalities competing.

Both myself and my Dad competed in it and it was based very close to our family business.

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There is no doubt Irish rallying deserves a chance to put on a show for the WRC’s best.

Rally Northern Ireland offers a mesmorising solution to the ongoing difficulties in UK and Irish rallying.

Anyone who has sampled previous Circuit of Irelands, Donegal Internationals, or Rally Irelands knows exactly how successful Rally Northern Ireland will be.

If you haven’t done so already, complete Rally Northern Ireland’s survey below. This is your chance to back the event and make a genuine difference in the team’s bid to attract the support it needs to happen.

https://www.rallynorthernireland.com/

Photos courtesy of ERC, Kevin Glendinning, and Adam Hall

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