26 February 2015: Newsletter #09/15

ERC star Breen helps launch the 2015 Circuit of Ireland…

With just over five weeks to go until round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Circuit of Ireland Rally (2-4 April), Irish star Craig Breen was in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, this week to help launch the event.

The talented 25-year old Peugeot Rally Academy ace from Waterford heads to his home round of the ERC lying second overall, thanks to his recent win on Rally Liepāja in Latvia, and is excited by the prospect of some serious competition ahead.

“Last year’s Circuit of Ireland was an amazing event with so many highlights, including the welcome we received from fans at Belfast City Hall and at each individual stage,” said Breen.

“Although it wasn’t the most successful rally for me as my car suffered problems and I had to retire, we’ve sorted out the problems and my car ran faultlessly in both Austria and Latvia, so I’m feeling positive and excited about competing in my home round of the ERC.

“I really appreciate all the months of preparation work by Bobby Willis [event director], Clerk of the Course Tom Walsh and all the Circuit team.”

…as Meeke also backs his home ERC event

Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke took some time out of his busy World Rally Championship schedule to attend the Circuit of Ireland Rally launch on Tuesday 25 February.

The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver from Dungannon is a great fan of the famous event (2-4 April), which forms round three of the FIA European Rally Championship.

“The Circuit of Ireland is a fantastic rally on some of the best Tarmac roads in the world,” said Meeke. “It’s great that it is now part of the ERC, and I may be biased, but I would dearly love to see it included in the WRC as I believe it could easily carry itself.”

Welcome return for Irish town stages

This year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally will include two of the fans’ favourite tests – the spectator stages in Newtownards and Lisburn.

The Newtownards stage will go live on Friday 3 April, while the action switches to the streets of Lisburn on Saturday 4 April. The final stage of the event will be a Power Stage at Lagan Valley Island in Lisburn.

While full details of the route have yet to be made public, fans will first see the ERC stars in action on the Qualifying Stage, based at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Ballycultra Village on Thursday 2 April. This will be followed by a ceremonial start at Belfast City Hall that evening.

Those wishing to see the cars close up and chat to the drivers should head to the regroups, which will be in Downpatrick on the Friday and Banbridge and Hillsborough Castle on the Saturday.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on the evening of Saturday 4 April, with the winner crowned at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the site of the Rally HQ and Service Park.

Hollywood superstar gears up for the Circuit of Ireland

Hollywood superstar Idris Elba will contest round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Circuit of Ireland Rally, in a Ford Fiesta R1.

The 42-year old actor, who played Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom, as well as winning a Golden Globe for his role in the BBC crime thriller series Luther, will be doing the rally as part of a new TV documentary series on Discovery, entitled, Idris Elba: Speed Demon.

Seven-time Circuit of Ireland winner Jimmy McRae will be Idris’ rally driver coach, while the experienced Michael Orr, from Bangor in County Down, will co-drive.

“We are so thrilled to host such a well-known celebrity at the rally as he takes on a new challenge,” said rally director Bobby Willis.

“In recent years we have built up the rally to become a major event in the sporting calendar of Northern Ireland and last year over 74,000 people came to view the various stages while it was viewed by over 14 million people across the world.

“The fact that Elba’s series will broadcast on the Discovery Channel in the UK, US and across more than 220 countries and territories showcasing Northern Ireland and the Circuit to an audience of many million more viewers is staggering but amazing news!”

ERC Tarmac treat for world’s fastest glamour model

Inessa Tushkanova hopes to have a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in time for round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Circuit of Ireland Rally (2-4 April).

Co-driven by Dimitry Chumak, the Russia-based glamour model survived a dramatic Rally Liepāja to record a strong scoring-points finish in both the ERC Ladies’ Trophy and ERC2 category in her Evo IX.

“I am working on my visa for Ireland and hope to be there,” said Tushkanova. “We get a new Evo X for that event, but I haven’t seen the new car yet as I’ve been so busy and also caught a cold in Liepāja, which has taken some time to recover from.”

After two ERC rounds Tushkanova is tied for the ERC Ladies’ Trophy lead with Czech driver Martina Danhelová.

Q&A with Craig Breen

Following on from his win on Rally Liepāja in Latvia, the Peugeot Rally Academy ace is keen to impress at home on an event that’s close to his heart.

What do you think of this year’s Circuit of Ireland route?

“Last year’s route was perfect, and I’m pleased to see that this year’s route is very similar. One stage on the Friday has been taken out and the long one on the Saturday has been replaced by another equally long one, but other than that the route is pretty much identical. There was one stage last year that was particularly tricky, but you have some great stages like Hamilton’s Folly. The roads are really nice and it’s a joy to drive. I’m just very pleased to have the opportunity to drive there again.”

How important is it for you to do well in front of your home fans – and can you win?

“The Circuit of Ireland means so much to me. I’ve grown up watching the event – for many years I’d watch the rally go by sitting on my dad’s shoulders and go down to Waterford, where the rally was based for many years, to see the start and finish. Irish rallying is very close to my heart and to win the Circuit of Ireland would be very, very special.”

There are quite a few Tarmac experts in the ERC. Which drivers do you think are likely to be your main rivals in Ireland?
“It really could be anyone. Kajetan Kajetanowicz will be very quick and while I don’t think Alexey Lukyanuk has done a rally on Tarmac before, he’ll be very quick too. There are also a lot of local drivers who’ll be doing the event, so you have to consider them as well. It’s impossible to pinpoint anyone at this stage.”

Media accreditation open for ERC Circuit of Ireland Rally

All media planning to attend the Circuit of Ireland Rally on 2-4 April and not in possession of an ERC Permanent Press Credential must apply by following this link: http://www.circuitofireland.net/accreditation.html. ERC Permanent Press Credential holders planning to attend the event must confirm their attendance by emailing media@fiaerc.com. All television/radio enquiries must be addressed to Antonios Argyropoulos by emailing fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com.

Press enquiries: Paul Evans, media@fiaerc.com, +44 7710 743167 Television: Antonios Argyropoulos, fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com Drivers and teams: Jean-Baptiste Ley, jbley@eurosport.com​