Circuit of Ireland Rally

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Circuit of Ireland Rally
Inaugural season1931
Drivers' championNorthern Ireland Alastair Fisher
Co-Drivers' championNorthern Ireland Gordon Noble
Irish Tarmac Rally Championship
European Rally Trophy
European Rally Championship (past)
Intercontinental Rally Challenge (past)
British Rally Championship (past)
Northern Ireland Rally Championship (past)
Circuit of Ireland Rally
DatesEaster weekend
Location(s)Down, Londonderry, Tyrone, Donegal, Antrim
CountryNorthern Ireland Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland
Most recent2022
Organised byUlster Automobile Club
UAC Easter Stages Ltd
SponsorWastewater Solutions

The Circuit of Ireland International Rally is an annual automobile rally, which was first held in 1931 making it the third oldest rally in the world. The most recent event was held in 2016.

The Circuit, as it is colloquially known, is organised by the Ulster Automobile Club and is traditionally held over the Easter holiday weekend. It normally starts and finishes in Northern Ireland, although over time the lengthy route of the event has typically included large segments in the Republic of Ireland as well. Most of the event's special stages are laid out on paved public roads that are closed to other traffic.


Early Years[edit]

The rally originated in 1931 as the Ulster Motor Rally. It was run from multiple starting points, in a manner similar to the Monte Carlo Rally. After several years in this format, it transitioned into a 1089-mile circuit, essentially following the Irish coastline and starting and finishing in Bangor, County Down. The Circuit was suspended during World War II (1939–1945), and again in 1948 due to fuel shortages. Further cancellations occurred in 1957, 1972, 2001 and 2007.


The 2007 Circuit of Ireland was cancelled as a result of continuing disputes between the organisers, the event operating company, and the sponsors. It was replaced by a series of smaller Easter holiday events arranged by the Ulster Automobile Club. These included the Easter International Rally (or, Easter Stages Rally), which was run over 12 special stages in Londonderry, Tyrone, and Donegal.

The Circuit restarted again on the Easter weekend (21–23 March) in 2008. Twenty-eight teams competed on twenty special stages, with fourteen teams finishing. The overall winner was Eamonn Boland in a Subaru Impreza S12B.[1]

The 2009 event was run over the weekend of 11–12 April, starting in the town of Banbridge, County Down and finishing after 14 special stages in Dundalk. The overall winner was Eugene Donnelly in a Škoda Fabia WRC.[2]


In 2010, the event was awarded Intercontinental Rally Challenge Supporter Event status.[3] The event was run over the weekend 3–4 April and was based in Newry, Northern Ireland. There was a total of 15 stages including a 29 kilometres (18 mi) night stage. The event counted as a round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.[4] Derek McGarrity and co-driver James McKee won the rally in their Subaru Impreza S12B. Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus RS WRC) and Alastair Fisher/Marshall Clarke (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) finished second and third respectively.[5]

The 2012 Circuit of Ireland event hosted round three of the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.,[6] as well as Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and Northern Ireland Rally Championship stages.

In December 2012, it was announced that the 2013 rally will be cancelled due to a lack of funds, but was subsequently reinstated at a reduced scale.[7][8] In the end, the event was cancelled due to bad weather.


Having resolved the issues the previous year, the 2014 Circuit of Ireland event rejoined the European Rally Championship for the first time since 1991. It consisted of 18 special stages covering a total of 230 km in 2 days, starting in Belfast. Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi dominated the (European Rally Championship) ahead of 2nd place Sepp Wiegand from Germany, making it a Skoda 1–2. He won by 1 minute and 50 seconds. Irishman Robert Barrable finished 3rd in their Ford Fiesta R5. Declan Boyle won the Circuit of Ireland National Rally in his Subaru Impreza S12B WRC. Teenage British driver Chris Ingram lead the ERC Junior Championship but crashed out handing the win to Czech driver Jan Černý. Ingram still became the youngest winner of the Colin McRae 'Flat Out' Award, handed to him by local hero Kris Meeke.

The 2015 event hosted European Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Rally Championship rounds.

The 2016 Circuit of Ireland event hosted European Rally Championship, Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, as well as British Rally Championship rounds.


The 2017 event was cancelled due to funding issues, casting doubt on the event's future altogether.[9] For the following two years attempts to resurrect the event were unfruitful.


After 3-year break, the rally was finally about to return to the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship calendar in tandem with Easter Stages Rally. The event, managed by Event Director Graeme Stewart and Clerk of the Course Nigel Hughes, was planned to consist of 18 Special Stages. Overall distance of the event was going to be 377.46 mi (607.46 km), of which 137.25 mi (220.88 km) in special stages. The number of competitors was limited to 100, the competitor entry fee was £725. The event was also to host European Rally Trophy series event FIA ERT Celtic Rally Trophy.[10][11]

On 13 March the event was postponed in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.[12] [13] On 20 March, Motorsport Ireland issued a statement that all motorsport events are suspended until 1 June 2020.[14] On 28 April the Tarmac Rally Organisers' Association announced that the 2020 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is cancelled.[15] The Circuit of Ireland event could still go ahead anyway, and the organisers - Ulster Automobile Club - promptly stated that the event is postponed, rather than cancelled,[16] and have secured a date in November. However, on 25 June 2020 they finally announced that in the interests of public health and safety the event is cancelled. [17] 2021 event was also cancelled due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


After five years of absence, the Circuit returned to the 2022 racing calendar on Easter weekend. Officially called Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland Rally 2022 was hosted by Ulster Automobile Club and promoted by the Easter Stages Ltd. The two day, 192.68 competitive kilometres event ran over 12 stages in Mid and East Antrim, with event headquarters in the Livestock Market in Ballymena. The Circuit of Ireland International Rally was the first round of the FIA Celtic Rally Trophy and well as the third round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.


Past Winners[18] [19]
Year Driver Car
1931 Jimmy McCaherty Austin 16 Saloon
1932 William McMullan Alvis
1933 Stanley Orr Austin 7
1934 Wilnor Jones Standard 10
1935 Wesley Shaw Triumph
1936 Basil Clarke Austin 16
1937 Wesley Shaw Triumph
1938 Graham Chambers MG TA
1939 Billy Michael Wolseley
Cancelled; World War II
1946 Artie Bell Riley RMA
1947 Jack McMichael MG TC
1948 Cancelled; Fuel shortages
1949 Chris Lindsay Ford Special
1950 Dermot Johnston Allard
1953 Wilbert Todd Dellow
1954 Mervyn Glover Dellow
1955 Robin McKinney Triumph TR2
1956 Robin McKinney Triumph TR2
1957 Cancelled; Suez Crisis
1958 Paddy Hopkirk Triumph TR3A
1960 Adrian Boyd Austin-Healey Sprite
1961 Paddy Hopkirk Sunbeam Rapier
1962 Paddy Hopkirk Mini Cooper
1963 Ian Woodside Austin Sprite
1964 Ronnie McCartney Mini Cooper S
1965 Paddy Hopkirk Mini Cooper
1966 Tony Fall Mini Cooper
1967 Paddy Hopkirk Mini Cooper
1968 Roger Clark Ford Escort
1969 Roger Clark Ford Escort
1970 Roger Clark Ford Escort
1971 Adrian Boyd Ford Escort
1972 Cancelled; NI security concerns
1973 Jack Tordoff Porsche Carrera
1974 Cahal Curley Porsche Carrera
1975 Billy Coleman Ford Escort RS1600
1976 Billy Coleman Ford Escort RS1800
1977 Russell Brookes Ford Escort RS1800
1978 Russell Brookes Ford Escort RS1800
1979 Pentti Airikkala Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HSR
1980 Jimmy McRae Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HSR
1981 Jimmy McRae Opel Ascona 400
1982 Jimmy McRae Opel Ascona 400
1983 Russell Brookes Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HSR
1984 Billy Coleman Opel Manta 400
1985 Jimmy McRae Opel Manta 400
1986 David Llewellin MG Metro 6R4
1987 Jimmy McRae Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
1988 Jimmy McRae Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
1989 Jimmy McRae Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
1990 David Llewellin Toyota Celica GT-Four
1991 Colin McRae Subaru Legacy RS
1992 Frank Meagher Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
1993 Austin MacHale Toyota Celica
1994 Stephen Finlay Ford Escort RS Cosworth
1995 Bertie Fisher Subaru Impreza 555
1996 Stephen Finlay Ford Escort RS Cosworth
1997 Bertie Fisher Subaru Impreza
1998 Austin MacHale Toyota Celica
1999 Bertie Fisher Subaru Impreza
Cancelled; 2001 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak
2002 Andrew Nesbitt Subaru Impreza
2003 Derek McGarrity Subaru Impreza
2004 Derek McGarrity Subaru Impreza
2005 Derek McGarrity Subaru Impreza
2006 Eugene Donnelly Toyota Corolla
2007 Mark Higgins Subaru Impreza
2008 Eamon Boland Subaru Impreza S12B
2009 Eugene Donnelly Škoda Fabia WRC
2010 Derek McGarrity Subaru Impreza S12B
2011 Derek McGarrity Subaru Impreza S11
2012 Juho Hanninen Škoda Fabia S2000
2013 Cancelled; Bad weather
2014 Esapekka Lappi Škoda Fabia S2000
2015 Craig Breen Peugeot 208 T16
2016 Craig Breen Citroën DS3 R5
Not held
Cancelled, coronavirus pandemic
2022 Alastair Fisher Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

Multiple winners[edit]

Top drivers with most wins (>2) / most starts (>15). (As of 2022)

Driver Most Wins Most Starts
Jimmy McRae 7 14
Paddy Hopkirk 5 8
Derek McGarrity 5 15
Roger Clark 3 12
Russell Brookes 3 16
Billy Coleman 3 18
Bertie Fisher 3 22
Adrian Boyd 2 17
Austin MacHale 2 25
Rosemary Smith 0 16
Noel Smith 0 16


  1. ^ Final Overall Positions North East Rally Services Results Service 2008-03-23
  2. ^ Official Award Winners Ulster Automobile Club website. Retrieved 2010-01-02
  3. ^ "Circuit of Ireland becomes IRC Supporter Event". Intercontinental Rally Challenge. 18 December 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  4. ^ IRC Supporter Event gets night stage Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine IRC Official Website 2010-02-19 Retrieved 2010-02-19
  5. ^ "The UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally 2010" (PDF). North East Rally Services. 4 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Exciting IRC calendar for 2012 revealed". Intercontinental Rally Challenge. 24 November 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-27. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Circuit of Ireland international rally called off due to lack of funding" Belfast Telegraph 14 December 2012
  8. ^ "Reduced scale for Circuit of Ireland Rally" Belfast Telegraph 16 December 2012
  9. ^ "ERC and BRC's Circuit of Ireland rally cancelled for 2017 season".
  10. ^ " - Stories - Circuit of Ireland / Easter Stages - 10-11 Apr 20 - CANCELLED".
  11. ^ "Circuit of Ireland Rally 2020 - SUPPLEMENTARY REGULATIONS" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Motorsport Ireland Statement on Covid-19". Motorsport Ireland. 2020-03-12. Archived from the original on 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-03-14.
  13. ^ "PRESS RELEASE". UAC Easter Stages. 2020-03-13. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
  14. ^ "MOTORSPORT IRELAND STATEMENT ON COVID-19". Motorsport Ireland. 2020-03-20. Archived from the original on 2020-04-18. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  15. ^ "2020 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship Cancelled". Motorsport Ireland. 2020-04-28. Archived from the original on 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  16. ^ "Coronavirus: Circuit of Ireland's eagerly anticipated return postponed". Belfasttelegraph. 2020-03-13. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  17. ^ "Circuit of Ireland / Easter Stages - 10-11 Apr 20 - CANCELLED". 2020-06-25. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  18. ^ "UTV Drive - Past Winners". UTV. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  19. ^ "Circuit of Ireland". EWRC. Retrieved 2020-03-14.

External links[edit]