World Rally Championship race may be headed to NI

The FIA World Rally Championships in Wales, 2015
The FIA World Rally Championships in Wales, 2015

A World Rally Championship race could become the latest major event to be staged in Northern Ireland, a Westminster committee has heard.

Tourism Northern Ireland chief John McGrillen confirmed talks are under way with the FIA World Rally Championship organisers about hosting an event in 2020.

It comes after speculation in recent months about the event coming to Northern Ireland from Wales.

Mr McGrillen made the comments in response to questions from DUP MP Ian Paisley during an appearance at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Mr Paisley had asked what big events are on the horizon for the region following The Open golf championships at Royal Portrush next month.

“Once The Open is over, we have had some concerns that is a cliff edge, that there’s no real significant event going forward,” he said.

“Can you give us an idea of where the next chapter is? Is World Rally a potential for Northern Ireland, and if so what needs to be done next?”

Mr McGrillen confirmed there are talks under way with World Rally organisers.

“Well it certainly is a potential as are a number of other events we are talking to promoters about,” he told the committee.

“When we get a submission the first thing we ask the promoter to do is give us the evidence which allows us to make the case for investment in that particular event.

“The revenue support we get for the golf or any of the larger projects don’t come within our budget, we have got to make a submission to the department, so we need to put a very strong business case to the department to make the argument that the event deserves support, that there is going to be a significant return in investment in tourism terms.

“As I understand it, we are in the process of gathering that information from those people you have been speaking to (World Rally), we are in the process of doing that at the moment and once we have sufficient evidence to suggest that is a project that can really deliver for Northern Ireland, we will make that case to the department.”