A superspecial stage around the Harland and Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was launched 100 year ago will be one of the main attractions of the Circuit of Ireland Rally when it takes play in April.

The stage will kick-start the third round of the IRC season as crews tackle the two kilometre stage before 14 mores stages take place over the following two days.

Amongst those stages is a city centre power stage in Lisburn, which attracted 15,000 fans last year.

"2012 is a year of utmost importance to Northern Ireland," First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter D Robinson said. "There are so many special events and anniversaries taking place that we can safely say we have a genuinely exciting experience to offer the world.

"I welcome the thrilling contribution the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally will make to the world-class programme of NI2012 events and especially welcome the news that the Rally has been inducted into the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge and is only UK stage in the calendar.

"With the addition of the IRC, this event will not only bring in crowds in their thousands to Northern Ireland, showcasing our tourism product and contributing to the development of the economy but will also show Northern Ireland to around 10 million people via Eurosport.

"That's why I am pleased that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has provided financial assistance of ?70,000 to support marketing and promotion as well as assist with the cost of running the event."

Rally director Bobby Willis said he was looking forward to seeing cars tackle the new superspecial stage.

"2012 will be the biggest and best Circuit of Ireland Rally in more than two decades as we continue to restore the event to its former glory," he said. "First and foremost, I want to thank both Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland who were visionary in realising the potential of this event and worked tirelessly to secure it.

"The Titanic Super Special Stage will be a feast for motorsport fans and families alike with some of the world's biggest rallying stars, including current IRC series champion, Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen, thrilling crowds on a stage that will be built beneath grandstands yards from where the Titanic was launched.

"The slippery surface of this stage will really test the competitors making it incredibly exciting for both drivers and spectators alike."


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