Bobby Willis receives top motorsport award

Kris Meeke (left) and Pamela Ballantine with Bobby Willis.
Kris Meeke (left) and Pamela Ballantine with Bobby Willis.

International rally organiser and respected former co-driver Bobby Willis has been presented with the highly prestigious Contribution to Motorsport Award for 2015 by the Sparks NI Motorsport Committee.

The popular event director of iconic rally, the Circuit of Ireland, received the accolade from top rally driver Kris Meeke at Sparks NI’s Celebration of Motorsport charity dinner held on Friday evening at the Culloden Hotel.

Formula One racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart was guest speaker at the sold-out event.

The annual event brings together stars, competitors, fans and friends from the world of motorsport and raises much needed funds for Sparks charity, Action Medical Research for Children.

Bobby joins a star cast of past winners in this ‘Hall of Fame’ award, including Brian and Liz Patterson, Jeremy McWilliams, Mervyn Whyte and Alan ‘Plum’ Tyndall.

Belfast man Bobby Willis took up rallying in 1972 and earned an international reputation with over 100 stints in the Rally World Championship, the Middle East Rally Championship and the Cross Country World Cup.

His first international win came in 1995 on the Jordan Rally helping him win the Middle East Rally Championship that same year. Bobby then clinched the Lebanon Rally in 1996. In 2003 he and driver Stephane Henrard took sixth overall position in the Dakar Rally, universally billed as the world’s toughest and most challenging rally.

As well as heading up the Circuit of Ireland Rally, Willis has organised ‘Super Special Stages’ in Ireland for the World Rally Championship and also operates his Rallymaps business, which he founded nearly 40 years ago.

In recent years Bobby has regenerated the Circuit of Ireland brand and alongside his management team and volunteers has established the Circuit as one of the top five sporting events in Northern Ireland.

The 2016 Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place from April 7-9.