Ru­mours of ERC sta­tus have been quashed

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Jack Benyon

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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