The Circuit of Ireland International Rally, run annually over the Easter weekend, will not take place in 2013, it has been announced.
The news comes despite the success of the 2012 edition, which was included in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge series and which delivered a global audience of nearly 9 million via Eurosport
. The event had also been provisionally named in 2013 FIA European Rally Championship calendar.
Rally Director, Bobby Willis who had made significant headway in rejuvenating the Irish sporting institution since taking the reins three years ago, took the difficult decision.
“This is an extremely painful judgement for me to make and one that I do not enter into lightly,” he explained. “I had publicly expressed concern in October over funding for the 2013 Rally.
“We have received significant backing from Government but we were falling short of our full funding requirements and given the delay this has imposed it is now impossible to organise an international sporting event in less than 3 months.”
In a decision sure to disappoint thousands of rally fans, Willis added: “Over the last three years I have invested my own money and resources into getting the rally up and running in the hope that funding would materialise before the event.
“I am no longer willing to play Russian roulette with my own finances in order to safeguard a rally that has worldwide appeal, even though it is so close to my heart.”
“This is not the end for the Circuit of Ireland Rally and I, along with 700 volunteers which it takes to run the rally, will regroup and begin planning now for 2014,” he added.
Willis had masterminded the re-birth of the Easter run Circuit of Ireland over recent years and was credited with reawakening the sleeping sporting giant by realising his vision of 'bringing rallying to the people' through popular city centre stages in Lisburn and Titanic Quarter.
Willis continued: “I'd like to thank our principal sponsor the Donnelly Motor Group and public sector bodies such NITB and some of our local councils who bought into my vision for the Rally with their support. Most of all I'd like to thank the volunteers and spectators who made the Rally so special in recent years.
“Given the geographical spread of the Rally and the many stakeholders it interfaces with, it is a huge logistical challenge but one with incredible tourism potential and rewards, as last year proved with picture perfect postcard images of Northern Ireland broadcast around the globe. While the team is hugely disappointed I can assure fans that we will re-group and make every effort to come back stronger in 2014.”