ULSTER MOVES TO AN TRIM FOR 2018 EVENT
Rumours of ERC status have been quashed
The Ulster Rally will move to the County Antrim area for 2018, although it will not form part of the European Rally Championship as reported by some local media.
The event – which is a round of the British and Irish Tarmac Rally Championships and FIA Celtic Rally Trophy – has been based in Londonderry for the past two seasons, and will now move into a congested location for rallies next season. The Ulster Automobile Club will run its Easter Stages Rally in the area.
“It’s time for us to move again, it’s part of the history of the rally,” said event director Robert Harkness. “I’m not sure people appreciated the stages in the Sperrins [near Londonderry], yet they were always taken as good stages before this last couple of years, but the weather was better [previously]. A lot of people were fed up with the stages.”
The event is set to run in August, with the usual two-day format to be retained. It will run after the Easter Stages Rally in April, with the Ulster provisionally pencilled in for August 17/18.
“We’ve had a number of meetings about trying to sort out who will run what stages where,” said Harkness. “We might run variations of similar stages, but there’s enough variation there at least for one year, until we get our heads around it.
“We plan to run north and really north. Glendun and Torr Head [stages].”
Harkness confirmed that the event wouldn’t try to combine Glendun and Torr Head as the Circuit of Ireland did in 2016, for fear of losing too much mileage if the stage was cancelled.
ITRC frontrunner Alastair Fisher said: “It’ll maybe be too close together [the Easter Stages and the Ulster], but the clubs and sponsors have had to do it for a reason. It’s good to see the Easter Stages coming back out again as well.”
His fellow competitor Joe Mcgonigle added: “The stages in Antrim are great and when the rally was last up in Antrim, it was a fantastic rally. The service area is one of the best and you know what kind of challenge you’ll get out of the stages.”
Confusion arose from council documents which mentioned the rally would be a round of a “European regional championship”. This was mistaken as the ERC, which has run in that area as recently as 2016 with the Circuit of Ireland. That event isn’t running in 2017 or ’18.
“Of course we’re more than aware of the Ulster Rally’s popularity and strong level of organisation and heritage but we’ve never actually had any discussions with the event organisers about an ERC round or otherwise,” said ERC co-ordinator Jean-baptiste Ley. “But it seems there was some confusion between ERC and ERT as the Ulster Rally will be part of the FIA European [Celtic] Rally Trophy next season. We will be announcing the provisional calendar for the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship shortly.”
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