Ulster Rally off, casting doubt over BRC/ITRC seasons

Event organizer's preparations hampered by measures to prevent coronavirus spread

Alex Laffey / Stuart Loudon Ford Fiesta R5

The penultimate round of the British Rally Championship – the Ulster International Rally – has been canned by organisers on the grounds that current COVID-19 measures are hampering preparations.

It is the latest hammer blow to national rallying in the UK and Ireland, and follows on from the West Cork, Circuit of Ireland, the Corbeau Seats Rally and three-day Donegal International being postponed.

Ulster Rally bosses made the call on Monday lunchtime because the bulk of the groundwork that goes into both preparing and planning for the asphalt classic takes place in the four months leading up to it.

Around 800 volunteers have to be mobilized in order to make the Newry-based rally happen, and event director Richard Swanston said the announcement provides clarity to all stakeholders and will help to financially safeguard the Ulster Rally moving forward.

He confirmed that representatives from the British Championship supported the decision, as did those from the Irish Tarmac Championship.

“The Northern Ireland Motor Club regrets to announce the postponement of the 2020 Today’s Ulster Rally due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation,” said Swanston, himself an experienced motorsport competitor.

“The current lockdown conditions required to contain the spread of the virus are preventing the organising team from safely carrying out the necessary preparations for the event, including the very important special stage public relations work. The event is dependent on the support of local communities and residents and we do not want to increase the risk to them, nor our volunteers.

“A significant amount of work has already been done by our volunteers – and we extend our thanks to them for that – with the intention that this will be carried forward to the 2021 event,” he added.

Two-time British champion Matt Edwards said the organizer had his backing, but pointed out the issues postponing rallies creates for those who make a living from the series.

“Of course, I support events adhering to guidelines and not wanting to incur unnecessary costs,” said Edwards, who leads the BRC standings.