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


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

02 February 2009
Rain Fails To Dampen Loeb's Rally Ireland Victory
Torrential rain and the cancellation of two stages of the opening round of the World Rally Championships failed to halt another victory by French driver Sebastien Loeb at the wekend.
01 December 2008
Lakelands Launch For World Rally Championships
Although there's no super, high profile Belfast launch at Stormont this year, Rally Ireland 2009 will start instead in the lakelands of Fermanagh. January 29 will mark the revised ceremonial start of Rally Ireland 2009, which takes place in Enniskillen and the event proper will begin the following morning with the first stage in Cavan.
19 May 2008
Rally Ireland Will Kick Off 2009 Series
The roar of high performance rally cars is to return to Ireland early next year. As Rally Sardinia finished on Sunday - with another victory for Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, marking his 40th World Rally Championship win - news that Rally Ireland will launch 2009's 12-round series has emerged.
10 October 2007
Cooperative Spirit Brings Rally to Stormont
Rally fans across Northern Ireland and the border counties will be delighted next month with the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of world class rallying, kicking off with a stage right in Belfast.
29 January 2009
Cross Border Rally Revs Up For Action
One of the most prestigious rally events in the world accelerates into the border counties this evening.