The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship will return to Northern Ireland’s iconic Glens of Antrim stages on April’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Ulster Automobile Club’s international rally runs under the historic Circuit of Ireland name for the first time since 2016 when it played host to the European Rally Championship.
2016 was also the last time Glendun and Cairncastle were used on the event. Although, those famous stages have since been sampled by crews competing on the 2018 Ulster Rally and 2017 Glens of Antrim Rally.
The 2022 Circuit of Ireland Rally may only have 11 stages but each one tops the 15-kilometre mark providing a total of 193 competitive kilometres.
Orra Lodge and Lisles Hill run three times on Good Friday as drivers tackle some of the most challenging roads in Ireland. The omission of Torr Head is the only potential disappointment.
Saturday’s Cairncastle and Glendun tests complete the rally’s unusual itinerary of just four unique stages. In fact, Friday’s tests are effectively reversed versions of Cairncastle and Glendun. Saturday’s version of Cairncastle is extended to over 22 kilometres and runs three times while Glendun runs twice.
With so much action across a condensed number of roads, stage conditions will be an interesting factor over the Easter weekend.
Indeed, any muck pulled out on Friday could lie in strange positions as crews rally in the opposite direction on Saturday.
Both areas of County Antrim provide fast, flowing stages that will demand sheer commitment through their notorious high-speed bumps and jumps.
It will be another different type of event for Irish Tarmac Championship crews to sink their teeth into. If Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes continue to set the pace in the Glens, they’ll surely be favourites for this year’s hotly contested title.
Alastair Fisher impressed the last time the Circuit visited Cairncastle and Glendun while Jonny Greer has sampled the terrain in each of its Circuit, Ulster, and Glens of Antrim inclusions.
“Glendun is a really challenging stage,” commented Greer. “It has a lot of sharp medium-to-high speed corners.
“Most of it goes downhill and it is a very nice stage towards the end. It gets fast with lots of corners that just flow one into one another
“I don’t remember it ever being done in reverse so that will be interesting!
“Half of Cairncastle is used as a hillclimb – it’s a much wider road with lots of long corners.
“After that it gets more like traditional Antrim stages – narrow and fast – so you need a different approach to both parts of the stage which is fun.
The 2017 Glens of Antrim Rally winner impressed many on his first Irish Tarmac event of 2022 – March’s West Cork Rally. Greer was able to give Rally Insight an idea of how the Circuit of Ireland will differ to the stages surrounding Clonakilty.
“There is a lot more elevation change in these stages, it is just the nature of the Glens.
“Then again, the stages in this year’s West Cork Rally seemed more twisty and bumpier than normal so maybe there are some similarities as well.
“Confidence in the narrow, high-speed sections will be crucial on the Circuit. Having a good car over bumps will be important too.”
Greer is expected to be joined by ITRC’s usual contenders Moffett, Fisher, Callum Devine, and Meirion Evans on round three of what is proving to be a stand-out season of competition.
The 2022 Circuit of Ireland Rally is based in Ballymena with action running through 15-16 April.
2022 Circuit of Ireland Rally itinerary
SS1 Orra Lodge 1 (16.25 km) // 09:35
SS2 Lisles Hill 1 (15.02 km) // 10:50
SS3 Orra Lodge 2 (16.25 km) // 13:38
SS4 Lisles Hill 2 (15.02 km) // 14:53
SS5 Orra Lodge 3 (16.25 km) // 17:41
SS6 Lisles Hill 3 (15.02 km) // 18:56
SS7 Cairncastle 1 (22.61 km) // 08:51
SS8 Glendun 1 (15.61 km) // 10:11
SS9 Cairncastle 2 (22.61 km) // 12:50
SS10 Glendun 2 (15.61 km) // 14:10
SS11 Cairncastle 3 (22.61 km) // 16:49