The future of rallycross at Ireland’s Mondello Park is hanging in the balance. The County Kildare circuit has informed the Irish Rallycross Championship that unless it can guarantee 50 entries to the first round of the 2016 championship on March 6th, it is likely that there will be no further rallycross events held at the circuit this season, possibly indefinitely.
The economic recession in Ireland has been a factor in low entries in IRX over recent years, but thanks to the concerted effort of volunteer members of the organising committee to increase the promotion of the series, things have been on the up. But, the championship is still lacking for regular competitor numbers.
Motorsport Ireland Rallycross Committee Chairman John Dowling is encouraging drivers to enter the opening round of the championship, to help keep the sport alive. “Mondello needs 50 entries to break even from a national rallycross event. If the entry level is below that threshold when the entry closes a week before, it is too late to for Mondello to substitute rallycross for an alternative event,” he said. “For the future of rallycross at Mondello, they need to be confident that rallycross will consistently generate in excess of 50 entries and there is a very good chance of not getting that number by the closing date for the first round. If we don’t get the required entry, Mondello will almost certainly cancel the event, but more importantly, they will not gamble on the other 2016 dates either, as they can promote alternative more lucrative events.”
Not only is Dowling concerned for the 2016 events at Mondello Park, but for use of the circuit in the future too. In 2015, the championship introduced a new circuit in the east of the county at Tynagh, Galway. This venue could prove pivotal to the future of the sport in Ireland.
“If the first round doesn’t go ahead, unless we could demonstrate a dramatic revival in numbers at our Tynagh in the summer, it is unlikely that we could persuade Mondello to take the gamble in 2017. Last season the Rallycross Committee set out a four-year strategic plan to address the issues identified by the drivers and clubs. We designed and built the new circuit in Tynagh to provide a new challenge for drivers. It was hugely successful and praised by all concerned, but we still struggled to attract new entries. There is a large contingent of rallycross cars in dry dock around the country.”
Dowling believes that the exposure of rallycross created by the formation of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will help the sport in Ireland, along with the success of double-European champion and Supercar racer, Derek Tohill. “World RX has raised the profile of the sport and heightened awareness of the discipline for sure. I am hopeful that it will encourage and attract the new breed of young driver that we need so badly if the sport is to thrive at national level. Derek’s exploits have put rallycross at the center of motorsport in Ireland. He has shown what can be done with a lot of commitment, a load of hard work and the courage and vision to go for it. Derek should be an example to aspiring young racers. If you have a car, you don’t need a ball of money to enjoy rallycross. It is undoubtedly the best bang for your buck in motorsport – I would encourage anyone interested to come out and join us. We’ll make you welcome.”
Tohill thinks a later than usual start for the series should help to attract a strong entry for the opening round. “Traditionally IRX has struggled for entries in the depths of winter. The first round is later this year, so drivers have the opportunity to take more time to carry out work to their cars and get their new competition licenses,” said the double European Champion. “Mondello has given us a date in March and obviously they need to be comfortable that they will have sufficient entries for this to be financially viable. We have the opportunity to start our 2016 season on a positive note with a strong entry. It’s tough love, but we have to suck it up and prove that we want this.”
“The message is clear, get your entries in early and there won’t be an issue. The ball is in our court. Let’s hope all drivers understand the importance of Mondello’s call, there is a lot of renewed interest and lots of behind the scenes hard work by the committee. We just need to get the message out there.” Driving his OlsbergsMSE built Ford Fiesta Supercar, Tohill has committed to supporting the series as much as he can this year. “We see IRX as an opportunity for me to get more seat time in the car in preparation for Euro RX, with the additional bonus of bringing an exciting car to IRX. The European campaign has to be our priority, but we will race in Ireland as often as we can.”
Anybody interesting in finding out more about the Irish Rallycross Championship can do so on the series’ Facebook page.
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