For the first time since March 2020, spectators are set to savour on-stage action in Ireland when the Northern Ireland Rally Championship visits the Loughgall Stages Rally on 21 August.
The six-stage single-venue rally, which is based within Loughgall Country Park, is making its first ever appearance in the championship.
Jonny Greer currently leads the NI Rally Championship after its Bishopscourt opener in June. Shackleton hosts round two, the Dogleap Rally, on 7 August before championship hopefuls travel to the County Armagh village two weeks later.
“We had originally planned to include a closed road stage,” said Clerk of the Course, William Fullerton. “But due to Covid restrictions imposed by the Northern Ireland Executive, unfortunately we couldn’t make it work.
“Instead, we will run two stages within the confines of the park that competitors will tackle three times, providing a stern challenge for all crews.
“We are also delighted to announce that spectators will be permitted into the venue but we must advise that all spectators follow the guidance issued by the Northern Ireland Executive with regards to Covid-19.”
The latest guidance can be found online at nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19.
Despite only making its NI Championship debut this year, Loughgall Country Park has been a regular rally haunt for the North Armagh Motor Club. The Loughgall Stages Rally had traditionally run as a clubman two-wheel-drive rally before accepting four-wheel-drive entrants in 2017.
Championship status will attract Ireland’s higher-level Rally2 and WRC crews who will hope to bring an end to the five-year winning streak of local Ford Escort driver, Damian Toner.
The narrow country park roads may be asphalt based but their tree-covered nature has caught out its fair share of drivers over the years. Mistakes in Loughgall rarely go unpunished making it a proper test for those looking to challenge for fastest times.
The action will start at 09:30 with admission set at £10 for adults (which includes a programme) while accompanied children under the age of 16 will be admitted free. For more information, visit namcc.com.