Summer BRC date is first step towards International return in Ireland.
This Sunday’s British Rallycross Championship event at Mondello Park is much more than just a national event in a neighbouring territory, even though it marks the return of the BRC to Ireland after it skipped the traditional trip across the Irish Sea last year, the event is part of a long term plan to return International Rallycross to Ireland.
At a time when events at Europe’s furthest most reaches are under pressure because of the cost of making long journeys, the timing of Ireland’s move may seem strange: at least part of the reason that it dropped off the European championship schedule after 1996 was that, in a period of declining competitor numbers, few could or would justify the cost of making the trip. However, the move to re-establish an International event at Mondello Park comes from a a newly invigorated Rallycross Committee at Motorsport Ireland (the Irish ASN), a group that is working to build things up over the next five years.
When the ERC stormed into Ireland in the 1987 season it was at the beginning of the Group B era in the series and the Irish public took the sport and the ERC round to its heart, flooding into the venue each year for what became a series of memorable events. Back then Mondello had built up to applying for an ERC round over a two or three years, inviting British drivers to take part in national events as it built a reputation in the days before the BRC went to Ireland (it first appeared at Mondello Park in 1990). The process of gaining an ERC event now is more rigorous but the process of building an event and rebuilding a reputation remains. The first step in that process is the new summer date for a BRC event at Mondello.
“We need to get a summer date established and using the British championship to help us do that is the first stage of the plan,” explained European champion and MI Rallycross Committee member Derek Tohill, “The ERC is a long way off but it’s an aim for us, we want to build an event that adds something to the Rallycross season in Ireland and gets us back on to the International stage.”
Using parts of the FIA-licensed race circuit at Mondello Park, and benefitting from a large asphalt paddock area that includes pit garages, the Rallycross track at Mondello has changed significantly since the ERC last visited but boasts some of best facilities of any Rallycross track.
While the circuit has changed in the 15 years since the Europeans last raced in Ireland, the differebce in the event that will be run on Sunday from the March 2009 event that opened that year’s BRC is also marked. In his first event with a contemporary Supercar, Liam Doran claimed his first major event victory. Two years on he’s a very real title prospect in the ERC. Back then, the BRC field nestled among the Irish runners. Now the full roster of BRC classes will make the trip to Ireland, the RX150 series making its first ever appearance at Mondello Park, the entry is climbing towards 90 cars split fairly evenly between British and Irish competitors for an event that, so far, appears to be laying down the foundations for future growth.