Motor sports fans are in for a treat as the Ulster Rally kicks off in Derry this afternoon.
The rally gets underway from the Guildhall Square with an autograph session and a chance for fans to get up close and view the cars at 12:30pm ahead of the official race start.
The competitors will then travel to the Head Quarters and Service Park area at Ebrington to begin the race. Two regroups will feature in the 2017 event, including Friday, August 18 in Guildhall Square at around 4.45pm and at Strabane on Saturday, August 19 at around 2.00pm.
The rally finishes at Ebrington Square on Saturday, August 19 where spectators can view the race cars roaring over the finish line from 6.00pm.
A number of vantage points for spectators will be located throughout the route and highlighted in the event programme.
Some of the top names in motor racing and huge numbers of road racing enthusiast are expected to arrive throughout the week to prepare for an exciting weekend of rally action for the North West.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh said: “This is a fantastic weekend for the city and district and those interested in motor sports.
“As we welcome the Ulster Rally to the city for a second year, I expect there will be huge crowds attending and I look forward to welcoming the competitors, race organisers, the rally teams and visitors throughout the weekend.
“Road racing is very popular in the North West and council is pleased to host the Ulster Rally and the thousands of dedicated followers of the sport who travel far and wide to see some of the very best drivers and cars in action.
“I am very pleased that the organisers will once again work alongside local group Maiden City Motor Club and local business John Mulholland Motors of Campsie and Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) to deliver this event.
“Derry and Strabane welcome tourists from all over the world throughout the year and celebrated our year as City of Culture with millions, so we’re pretty confident that anyone attending this year’s Ulster Rally, will have an amazing time. This will be an action packed, fun weekend for all the family.
“Last year, we welcomed thousands of motor and racing enthusiasts to the North West from throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe and received really positive feedback from those who visited for the first time. As the race continues to grow this weekend promises to be another exciting weekend, and the ideal opportunity to show off the district’s beautiful rural areas.
“Finally, I wish everyone competing in the event the very best of luck and thank the Ulster Rally organisers for providing this world class sporting event and choosing the city and district as its location.”
Now celebrating its 41st year, the Ulster Rally is once again sponsored by local business, John Mulholland Motors and Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Organisers have confirmed the route will feature revised stages for the 2017 event, including the introduction of the Re-Grouping halts in Strabane Town Centre which will give spectators the opportunity to get up close to the competitors.
Robert Harkness, Ulster Rally Event Director said: “Once again we have had a huge interest in this year’s event, with around contenders flocking from across Ireland, UK and even America to compete, including some of the top Championship contenders.
“Among them will be top motorcycle rider Michael Dunlop who is hoping to add another four wheel title to his quota of victories. The route promises some fantastic action and with more than 18 R5 and S2000 cars the event will be a real spectacle for racing fans.”
Robert continues; “New for this year there will be two regroup points on Saturday in Castle Street, Strabane at 9am and 2pm. You will be able to get up close to the cars and drivers and with the support of Business Improvement District as there will be entertainment to make it a real family day out.”
Listen live online with Rally Radio broadcast from the stages, get all the latest news and updates, just logon to www.ulsterrally.com to tune in.
The 2017 John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally will be based at Ebrington Square during the weekend, further information, including information on road closures to facilitate the event is available at www.ulsterrally.com.