Craig Breen will return to defend his Circuit of Ireland International Rally title next month.
Breenheads a record-breaking entry list for the event which takes place on April 7-9.
The 26-year-old Waterford driver, who is now part of the Abu Dhabi Citroen World Championship team, will return to Belfast and to the FIA European Championship to defend his title as part of a capacity line-up which boasts an extraordinary number of the new generation R5 and S2000 cars.
A total of 38 cars in the top R5/S2000 category are entered in a rally which embraces the European, British and Irish Tarmac championships. They make up just under half the total entry – believed to be the highest number to take part in any rally anywhere in the world to date.
Breen, who won in a Peugeot 208 T16 last year, switches to an R5 Citroen DS3 to challenge for a second Circuit victory against a line-up which includes reigning European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Alexey Lukyanuk, leader of this year’s ERC series, as well as the leaders of the British and Irish Tarmac championships, Elfyn Evans and Keith Cronin.
“My World Championship programme takes preference this year but the Circuit of Ireland is very close to my heart and I really wanted to come back and try to win it again,” said Breen.
“My friends and supporters from Waterford and beyond were also desperate for me to do the rally and it is with their help that we have been able to make it happen.
“I love the rally, I love its rich heritage and I love the magnificent trophy which goes to the winner – I want to bring it back to Waterford for another year,” added Breen.
The outstanding entry list also includes rising Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin, who is second to Evans in the BRC series, another young Welshman Tom Cave, multi Scottish champion David Bogie, Frenchman Robert Consani, 18-year-old Russian Nikolay Gryazin, Jaromir Tarabus and Antonin Tlustak from the Czech Republic, Estonia’s Raul Jeets, Hungary’s David Botka and Finland’s Max Vatanen.
Ulster drivers are well represented too with Alastair Fisher, Jonny Greer, Marty McCormack and Robert Woodside all included in the top group.
The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place on April 7-9 and is the second of 10 rounds in the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship. The 2016 event is also part of the 2016 British Championship (BRC) the Irish Tarmac Championship series and is a counting round of the Northern Ireland Championship. Last year, the Circuit of Ireland attracted almost 80,000 spectators across the three day rally festival and a global TV audience of 40 million.