26/11/2008

Stormont Rally Stalls

There will be no high-octane Stormont launch for the World Rally Championships first event of 2009.

Just a month after news that Rally Ireland co-founders Sean O'Connor and Ronan Morgan were standing down from the promotion and management of Ireland's WRC contribution, it has emerged that the launch will no longer take place in the grounds at Stormont.

It has been revealed that Rally Ireland's Belfast leg of the prestigious event has been cancelled - apparently because not all of the manufacturers involved in the championship were "on board".

While still billed on the official WRC website today as kicking off in east Belfast on Saturday 24 January - five days before the rally proper is due to get underway - this morning, a spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Events Northern Ireland has confirmed that the Stormont launch will not be taking place as previously timetabled.
News Image
This will be a huge disappointment locally, especially so as the event actually replaces one previously held in Monte Carlo as the first event of the WRC season.

The Stormont launch was last year televised live around the world and its cancellation has been described by DUP Assembly Member Ian Paisley Jnr as a "huge loss to Northern Ireland".

He told the BBC today: "It's unfortunate whatever has got in the way of this, and it appears to have been internal wrangling within World Rally and indeed a bid to take it somewhere else, that Northern Ireland is prevented from benefiting from another spectacular event at Stormont."

Rally Ireland will, however, still be the first round of the 2009 World Rally Championship series - and will still be starting on 29 January and finishing on 1 February.

A new Chief Executive Officer, Alex Sinclair, and colleagues in Motorsport Ireland, have taken over organising the Irish round of the WRC after the departure of O'Connor and Morgan at the end of October.

Rally picture: Adam McCalden

See: Rally Ireland Will Kick Off 2009 Series

(BMcC/KMcA)

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