Lads and Lassies across the motorsport globe, at some point in your life you will have heard of the Circuit of Ireland Rally, perhaps even know someone who has taken part or even been part of the well lubricated crowds, that adorn the stages throughout the Easter weekend.  It is regarded as being one of the world’s most demanding tarmac rallies, on tight twisty lanes around the beautiful Irish countryside.

Well, I am going to introduce you to the proper version….

The Circuit of Ireland Rally is the second oldest rally in the world.  Steeped in history, many epic battles can be recounted after almost 80 years of rallying on the Emerald Isle.  Originally known as the Ulster Motor Rally, the event was first organised in 1931.  During those early days, it was run from multiple starting points, similar to the Monte Carlo Rally.

Over the years, the event expanded and eventually transformed into a true ‘circuit’ of Ireland.  The changes saw a new name for the event – Circuit of Ireland Rally – and competitors tackled more than 1,000 stage miles around the island, in what was a five-day marathon rally organised by the Ulster Automobile Club.

So to remember the original “Circuit”, the Retro began in 1980, allowing the classics and vintage cars we all know and love to continue to contest each other throughout the country on this marathon event. To this day the event remains as a 3-day adventure, although now concentrates around a single base camp each day, instead of landing into remote villages at 2am and proceeding to cause the local pub landlord, to have a coronary.

The current event format has received much praise over the last 3 years, bringing the excitement of special tests, night time navigation, regularities, and the social aspect all together for an epic weekend of highly competitive Classic Car rallying.


Everything kicks off on the Friday morning, leaving the heart of Lisburn to begin the first of over 20 “special tests” spread across the finest farm land, yards, public parks and even a decommissioned prison site.  These tests range from the usual auto-test style, to the veritable special stages that take over 9 minutes to complete, all at full throttle!!!  Once the adrenaline has taken hold, competitors are sent on the Night Navigation section.  Over 50 miles of Irish lanes, OS Maps and nervous co-drivers.  The midnight finish provides light snacks, a quiet bar and a lot of people reliving their days “moments” to each other.

After a well deserved rest, Saturday begins at 8am and the day is spent navigating the regularity sections between even more special tests. typically the Saturday takes in the beautiful sites of the Mourne Mountains and includes a brief border crossing to a special lunch halt. More tests, more regularity and the trials of multiple speed changes begin to take their toll on navigators and drivers alike. One small slip could see a whole different result come the Sunday.  Saturday night provides a beautiful setting in Lisburn’s Island Centre where competitors are fed, watered and transported back to the hotel by Lisburn City Council.

Frank Fennell/Michael Jackson     © Bill Swann

The organisers are more than aware of Saturday nights proceedings, and as such, Sunday kicks off in the same manner as Saturday, ensuring that any hangover is well and truly forgotten by the second special test.  The route will take competitors round the Ards Peninsula, providing test locations within stately homes, private land and not forgetting Ireland’s fastest race circuit, Kirkistown.  To round off the day, the prize giving is held at the Premier Inn, Sprucefield where everyone can get a good meal and finally relax after a hard weekend of motorsport.


From a competitors point of view, I simply cannot recommend this event enough and hopefully my first post here on MyLife@Speed can inspire even one person to dust off their classic and come out to play for the weekend. – Peter Moore

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