Bishopscourt will play host to rallying’s comeback on the Emerald Isle in less than four week’s time. The opening round of the NI Rally Championship is organised by Ballynahinch and District Motor Club with the single-venue rally pencilled in for 19 June.
The Bishopscourt Stages Rally will bring Northern Ireland’s 15-month period without rallying to a much welcomed end. It goes full circle as the 2020 Bishopscourt Stages Rally was the last event held in Northern Ireland before coronavirus halted motorsport activities.
Championship and event organisers have been working hard to get the sport back on track. Working with Motorsport UK, Sport NI, and 2&4 Wheels Motorsport, they have received the ‘green light’ for rallying’s return.
Bishopscourt’s self-contained circuit allows the championship’s opener to meet current government requirements. There will be no spectators allowed at Bishopscourt next month with social distancing practices also in place.
Competitors will complete a pre-event scrutineering declaration with random checks carried out on the event. Service crews will be limited to two people per car.
The McGrady Insurance backed championship consists of five rallies this year. Shackleton will host the Dogleap Stages on the first Saturday of August, and will be another single-venue rally.
Round three will take place within the beautiful Loughgall Country Park with the addition of a closed road stage in the surrounding area. Loughgall Stages, which takes place on 21 August, is a new event to the NI Rally Championship but has been a regular clubman event for over 10 years.
Two closed-road events will complete the championship throughout autumn. The Tour of the Sperrins and Tyrone Stages are scheduled for 16 October and 6 November respectively.
“All events will proceed subject to government regulations at the time,” said Raymond Linton, the Chair of Northern Ireland’s Stage Rallies Specialist Committee.
“The opening round at Bishopscourt will be a tentative first step back for rallying. Everyone is working hard to ensure that we have a safe, Covid compliant rally.
“We know fans are keen to get back on the stages and watch the action but we must operate our opening round in line with government guidelines.
“That means that spectators will not be permitted at Bishopscourt but fans will still be able to follow the action through the Championship’s social media feeds and website which will be updated as the action unfolds throughout the day.”
The maximum entry for June’s Bishopscourt Stages is set at 100 crews.
NI Rally Championship 2021 Calendar:
19 June: Bishopscourt Stages
7 August: Dogleap Stages
21 August: Loughgall Stages
16 October: Tour of the Sperrins
6 November: Tyrone Stages
Photo by Graham Baalham-Curry