Headquartered in Cookstown, the traditional Easter fixture will be held over one day instead of the usual two in an effort to minimize costs for the 120 competitors that are set to take part.
Clerk of the course Wayne Turkington says the roads that have been picked out — and the terrain they take in — should ask all the right questions of the crew, and make for a very exciting spectacle.
The first two special stages bring the rally to the Sperrin mountains before cars head back for a short service halt at the Cookstown 100 pits.
After this, the action switches to Coagh for the third speed test and then Pomeroy for the fourth timed run before these are repeated after a lunchtime service halt. In all, Turkington and his backroom staff have drawn up a new-look route that totals exactly 70 miles.
“We know from experience the one-day, high stage millage format is popular with competitors,” he said. “So we have made every effort to build on this by giving them fresh, challenging stages.
“The stages have not been seen on a round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in nearly 20 years. All of the crews compete for the challenge — and that’s what we will provide,” he continued.
Last November it was announced that the Ulster Automobile Club was joining forces with Cookstown Motor Club to plan and promote the 92nd running of the world’s third oldest stage rally. As part of the venture, the Good Friday leg was scrapped and the rally was limited to Saturday only.
The thinking appears to have worked as a sell-out entry has been secured, with all the main Irish Tarmac Championship protagonists entered.
These include Meirion Evans and Callum Devine in a brace of Volkswagen Polo GTI R5s, Citroen C3 Rally2 exponents Jonny Greer, Cathan McCourt, Desi Henry and Rob Barrable and former Tarmac champion Garry Jennings in a Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Sam Moffett is back in his new Rally2-spec Hyundai i20 N, while his younger brother Josh continues with the older R5 version of the Korean supermini that took him to the Irish Tarmac title last year.
“We are already full and have a reserve list waiting to go as well,” said Turkington.
CIRCUIT OF IRELAND ITINERARY
Start ramp – 9am
SS1 (Wolfs Hill 1) – 9.23am
SS2 (Mucker 1) – 9.57am
Service – 10.40am
SS3 The Hollow 1) – 11.29am
SS4 (Shanmaghry 1) – 12.11pm
SS5 (Wolf’s Hill 2) – 1.42pm
SS6 (Mucker 2) – 2.16pm
Services – 2.59pm
SS7 (The Hollow 2) – 3.48pm
SS8 (Shanmaghry 2) – 4.30pm
Finish ramp– 5pm
CIRCUIT OF IRELAND TOP 10 SEEDS
1 Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5)
2 Merion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Volkswagen Pol GTI R5)
3 Callum Devine/Noel O’Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)
4 Jonathan Greer/Niall Burns (Citroen C3 Rally2)
5 Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Hyundai i20 N Rally2)
6 Cathan McCourt/Liam Moynihan (Citroen C3 Rally2)
7 Desi Henry/Paddy Robinson (Citroen C3 Rally2)
8 Robert Barrable/Gordon Noble (Citroen C3 Rally2)
9 Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Ford Fiesta R5)
10 Declan Boyle/Patrick Walsh Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)