Circuit of Ireland Rally
|Intercontinental Rally Challenge (past)|
|European Rally Championship (past)|
|British Rally Championship (past)|
|Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (past)|
|Northern Ireland Rally Championship (past)|
|Circuit of Ireland Rally|
|Location(s)||Down, Londonderry, Tyrone, Donegal|
|Country|| Northern Ireland|
Republic of Ireland
|Organised by||Ulster Automobile Club|
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 2017 event was cancelled due to funding issues, throwing doubt on the event's future.. In 2014 after a year's rest the event had rejoined the European Rally Championship for the first time since 1991. The 2016 event was also a round of the British Rally Championship, the Northern Ireland Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
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. In 2010, the event was awarded Intercontinental Rally Challenge Supporter Event status. For 2012 the event will become round three of the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
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, which was run over 12 special stages in Londonderry, Tyrone, and Donegal. In December 2012, it was announced the 2013 rally would be cancelled due to a lack of funds, but was subsequently reinstated at a reduced scale.
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.
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.
In 2010, 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. 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.
The Circuit returned to the European Rally Championship in Easter 2014 and started in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It consisted of 18 special stages covering a total of 230km in 2 days. Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi dominated the International section (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.
- "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.
- "Exciting IRC calendar for 2012 revealed". Intercontinental Rally Challenge. 24 November 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-27. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "Circuit of Ireland international rally called off due to lack of funding" Belfast Telegraph 14 December 2012
- "Reduced scale for Circuit of Ireland Rally" Belfast Telegraph 16 December 2012
- Final Overall Positions North East Rally Services Results Service 2008-03-23
- Official Award Winners Ulster Automobile Club website. Retrieved 2010-01-02
- IRC Supporter Event gets night stage Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine IRC Official Website 2010-02-19 Retrieved 2010-02-19
- "The UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally 2010" (PDF). North East Rally Services. 4 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "UTV Drive - Past Winners". UTV. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved March 16, 2011.