Just months after running one of the most successful events in the rally’s history, promoter Bobby Willis has announced that the Circuit of Ireland will not return in 2017. The rally, which was backed extensively by the Northern Ireland Government, local councils and Tourism Northern Ireland cannot raise adequate resources to host the European Rally Championship or continue as a round of the British Rally Championship.
Willis said “To date we have had fantastic support from Councils across Northern Ireland, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland, private sponsorship and the NI Executive.
But regrettably at this point in time the financial resources required to deliver the event are still not in place. To run the Rally next year, in the current format, without the right resources and necessary planning period would be to do the Rally a gross disservice. I believe we cannot risk proceeding with the 2017 event at this point without financial certainty.”
Other options for 2017 remain on the table, including continuing as a part of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and Northern Ireland Rally Championship.
“The decision not to run the Rally next year has been the most difficult one I have ever had to make. The Circuit of Ireland Rally has reached a level of success unimaginable only a few years ago, attracting an enviable international entry list and with opportunities for even more growth within our grasp.
For those reasons it is vital that the ‘Circuit of Ireland’ brand is protected for future generations. Whilst other options for a small, local rally may be considered for next year, my plan is to take the time to work closely with our partners to secure the necessary resources and plan for the Circuit of Ireland Rally to return in 2018 with an even better event.”
The announcement is a major blow, as the event had reinvented itself in recent years, pulling in competitors, spectators and viewers from across the globe.