The Circuit of Ireland Rally will not take place next year.
The event, which this year began in Lisburn and included stages close to Banbridge and Dromore and a town centre regroup in Banbridge, has been shelved due to ‘funding uncertainty.’
A smaller, local rally may be considered in the place of the event which attracts over 40 million TV viewers. Last year, another 100,000 viewers followed the event in 130 countries via live streaming.
Circuit of Ireland Rally Event Director Bobby Willis said the decision to cancel the rally is the “most difficult” one he has ever had to make.
“I have had the privilege of managing the Circuit of Ireland Rally since 2009,” he said. “In that time the event has grown significantly and now hosts the prestigious European, British, Irish and Northern Ireland Championships.
“Year on year the event has brought increasing social and economic dividends for Northern Ireland and, in particular, the tourism and hospitality sector. But the growing success and size of the event necessitates precise long term project planning, additional resources and inevitably more financial investment.”
Mr Willis went on to praise the “fantastic support” the rally has received from Northern Irish Councils, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland, private sponsorship and the NI Executive. He also said he is confident that the rally has delivered “an excellent return” on those investments.
“We have been working hard with all our funders to plan ahead for 2017 but regrettably at this point in time the financial resources required to deliver the event are still not in place,” he said.
“To run the Rally next year, in the current format, without the right resources and necessary planning period would be to do the Rally a gross disservice. I believe we cannot risk proceeding with the 2017 event at this point without financial certainty.
“The decision not to run the Rally next year has been the most difficult one I have ever had to make and will be extremely disappointing for a wide range of people including the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed so much.
“The Circuit of Ireland Rally has reached a level of success unimaginable only a few years ago, attracting an enviable international entry list and with opportunities for even more growth within our grasp. For those reasons it is vital that the ‘Circuit of Ireland’ brand is protected for future generations.
“Whilst other options for a small, local rally may be considered for next year, my plan is to take the time to work closely with our partners to secure the necessary resources and plan for the Circuit of Ireland Rally to return in 2018 with an even better event.”