Preparations are gathering pace as Derry City prepares to host the Ulster Rally for the first time this summer.
The premier two day event, sponsored by John Mulholland Motors in Campsie, gets under way on Friday August 19 and will be headquartered at Ebrington, with the official launch taking place at the Guildhall this morning.
The rally is one of a select number of events included in the prestigious MSA British Rally and TROA Irish Tarmac Rally Championships as well as the European Celtic Cup and the Northern Ireland Championship.
Deputy Clerk of the Course and Chief Marshall, Ian Connolly, who hails from Park, says he is delighted that the event is coming to the city for the first time.
Mr Connolly, well known in local motoring circles and a member of the committee with the Maiden City Motor Club, said: “We are well advanced at this stage and everything is coming together really nicely. “We are expecting full entry, about 150 crews from all over. It is not just a cross border event, it is international and there will be local competitors joining others from across Ireland. It looks as though we will have crews from as far away as Sweden.”
The course will traverse the new Derry City & Strabane District Council area, with “great co-operation” between the council and Rally team, Mr Connolly said.
“It’s a very, very exciting event and I am bursting with excitement that it is coming to Derry and it is going to be huge for Derry.”
The Ulster Rally has been running for almost 40 years and was voted best round of the British Rally Championship for four years out of the past six, and the event will be held in Derry & Strabane for the next three years, and possibly even longer.
Free Spectator Areas are expected to be provided along the route, and Mr Connolly said local people and visitors will be able to mingle with the drivers and crews at Ebrington, where the Headquarters and Service Park will be stationed.
“We want to throw the sport open to the people,” he said. “Motor sport, and particularly rallying, already has a huge following locally. We want to try and make this the best event we possibly can.
“It’s nice, from my point of view, that we are able to put something back into the area and I’m hoping there is a good economic boost for traders as a result of it.”
The event will start on the afternoon of Friday, Auguts 19th with a formal Start Ramp at Guildhall Square and will continue through until Saturday evening.