A key feature of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally was the Ards TT Special Stage – evoking memories for some of the great days of road racing in Ulster.
The good news for this year’s event is that the stage will once again play a major part.
Thousands of spectators are expected to pack the streets of the County Down town on Good Friday evening to watch an anticipated 140 cars tackle a new and revised route at the end of the first day of competitive rallying in this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Last year some 25,000 spectators lined the streets of Newtownards to catch thehigh-speed action and designated hubs will be created this year to allow even better viewing.
The Circuit of Ireland Rally is the third round of the FIA European Rally Championship and is also a counting round of the FIA ERC Junior Championship.
Helping to launch the 2015 Ards Town Centre Special Stage, alongside the Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith, was World Rally legend Paddy Hopkirk.
One of Northern Ireland’s top sporting heroes, his name appears five times on the historic and prestigious Circuit trophy as he chalked up wins in 1958, ’61, ’62, ’65 and ’67 .
Hopkirk continues to be an avid follower and supporter of the Circuit of Ireland and said he was delighted to be in Newtownards to launch this year’s special Good Friday evening stage.
“Historically the streets of Newtownards have resonated with top motorsport competition when international drivers competed in the world famous Ards TT Races during the late 1920s and into the 1930s,” he said.
“I myself enjoyed wonderful Circuit of Ireland successes in the 50s and early 60s and I am delighted that famous rally drivers will once again be back for a new and refreshed town centre stage.”