Organisers of the Circuit of Ireland Rally are gearing up for an even bigger and better event in 2016. Following another hugely successful year when spectator numbers increased by 7% to over 78,000 and the direct economic impact for Northern Ireland was recorded at £1.8 million, the 2016 Circuit of Ireland will not only be once again part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship but has also been selected for inclusion in both the 2016 British Championship (BRC) calendar and the Irish Tarmac Championship series. It will also be a counting round in the Northern Ireland championship.
Now established as one of the top five sporting events in Northern Ireland, the 2016 Circuit will be the third of 10 rounds in the ERC schedule, the second asphalt race in the competition and the only UK and Ireland based event in the European Championship. Again, the rally will include the increasingly important ERC Junior Championship for drivers under 27.
New for 2016 is the inclusion in the BRC calendar which is the first time the Circuit has been selected since 1991 when it was won by the late World champion Colin McRae. To accommodate European calendar scheduling, the rally will move from its traditional Easter date to take place from Thursday 7th April to Saturday 9th April 2016.
The provisional list of dates issued by the ERC promoter, Eurosport Events, on 5th November 2015, followed a meeting of the FIA Rally Commission. The schedule will now go to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for final ratification when it meets on 2nd December 2015.
Welcoming the news, Event Director, Bobby Willis said: “The past two years have seen the Circuit of Ireland growing in stature and reclaiming its legendary position as a world class event. It has been a fantastic experience being part of the European Rally Championship. To now be included as part of the British Rally Championship as well, demonstrates our ability to deliver an event of the highest professional and sporting standards.”
“Last year 30 million viewers across the world watched the various stages on Eurosport, its global media partners and the Discovery channel. This exposure is not only fantastic for Northern Ireland but hugely increases our attraction as an event for international competitors. We’ve already begun discussions with teams and individuals interested in competing and I know that the line-up will once again be exceptional. The Circuit of Ireland is now firmly established at the premium end of the international rally arena and we are really looking forward to a very exciting Championship programme.”
The provisional FIA European Rally Championship calendar for 2016 is as follows:
5-7 February Rally Liepāja (Latvia, gravel/ice/snow) (J)
11-13 March Rally Islas Canarias (asphalt)
7-9 April Circuit of Ireland Rally (Northern Ireland, asphalt) (J)
6-8 May Acropolis Rally (Greece, gravel) **
2-4 June SATA Rallye Açores (Portugal, gravel) (J)
23-25 June Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally (Belgium, asphalt) (J)
15-17 July auto24 Rally Estonia (gravel) * (J)
5-7 August Rajd Rzeszowski (Poland, asphalt)
26-28 August Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech Republic, asphalt) (J)
24-25 September Cyprus Rally (gravel)
20-22 October Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland, asphalt)