WRC

Rally Ireland takes 2009 driving seat

Rally Ireland takes 2009 driving seat By: Jason Craig "It was a huge success and surpassed our expectations," the words of Rally Ireland's Ronan Morgan. Such was its success that the cross border event has been given the enviable honour...

Rally Ireland takes 2009 driving seat
By: Jason Craig

"It was a huge success and surpassed our expectations," the words of Rally Ireland's Ronan Morgan.

Such was its success that the cross border event has been given the enviable honour of officially opening the 2009 World Rally Championship, he believes it will be a memorable spectacle for both Ireland and world rallying.

Deemed "seamless" by the Rally Ireland co-promoter, Morgan's outlook was equally shared with sporting officials sitting on the FIA's Motorsport Council. "We are lucky to have been granted the opening round of the Championship in 2009," he said. "It used to be Monte Carlo but we will be taking over that mantle and opening the championship."

The decision reflects the FIA's new rotation policy that will see the French rally displaced from the now 15 event competition for only the second time since 1949. Even so, favouring Rally Ireland over the highly popular Tour de Course is testament to its pedigree.

"We were perceived to be one of the best organised rounds in the 2007 championship and because of that the FIA has rewarded us with the honour of hosting the opening round. It is very prestigious for us and will show how our enthusiasm and dedication to putting on a good event has been rewarded with that honour."

But Morgan and his team of rally organisers have not rested easily mindful of the fact Rally Ireland must again live up to its billing having been chosen as the first rally of the 2009 season.

"Lot's of things have been learnt and lots of things we can do better. Nothing major has to be done, just the intricate sporting nature of the event such as signage.

"We have had various de-briefings with various parts of our organising team and other bodies and there are areas we can improve on in the future."

People's love of rallying both North and South of the Irish border shone through amidst the damp and cold conditions, yet the general census of those who attended the sporting spectacle mirrored the FIA's thoughts -- highly impressed.

It has been suggested Rally Ireland was ranked fourth out of 2007's 16 rounds and only beaten by Finland, Germany and Spain respectively.

"A lot of people have seen what the event can deliver and now more people will understand much better what the event is about. Feedback was excellent and everybody enjoyed it. The enthusiasm of the spectators was there to be seen by all."

Rally Ireland provided the unique opportunity for many of Ireland's talented and home grown drivers to compete with Sebastien Loeb and co on some of the most challenging roads ever encountered by the WRC.

"I think the competitors enjoyed the challenge; it was probably the most difficult rally on the calendar in 2007 as the Irish roads are something different to what they have ever experienced before," he revealed.

"Enormously beneficial"

This support and enthusiasm for Rally Ireland is reflected in research conducted by the University of Ulster's Dr. David Hassan and Dr. Douglas McCulloch.

Having set-up logistics on both sides of the Irish border their research findings have shown 92.7% of those surveyed came from the island of Ireland, 54.5% of which from Northern Ireland and 38.2% from the Republic of Ireland.

With 150,000 spectators on average in attendance over the three day rally considerable economic revenue was amassed with the research providing a guesstimate figure of £36.5million.

Speaking to Dr. David Hassan, he believes the rally has been "enormously beneficial" to Ireland with a platform now established and a benchmark set on which to move forward and ensure Rally Ireland 2009 is another success.

"Rally Ireland has proved enormously beneficial to Ireland, particularly the North West region, in terms of direct economic impact and indirectly in terms of the tremendous publicity that the event has provided.

"There are few other opportunities for a country to directly showcase its most marketable commodity, in Ireland's case its landscape and rurality, to more than 100 countries worldwide with a viewership touching 1 billion people," he explained.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Rally Ireland was its warming ability to unite people from the religious divide and ability to combine financial resources and political clout from both sides of the Irish border.

Morgan was full of praise and admiration for the emergency service's professionalism and believes the bond which has established itself between them will be of enormous benefit come January 2009.

"It has been fantastic. Both bodies have worked very well and both governments have worked well with us. Other departments that were necessary to come on board like all the emergency services, the ambulance, the fire service, but most importantly the two police services were amazing.

"Those guys worked hand in glove and they found a new way of working together. I think that will enhance any other major event that will happen on a cross border basis."

Even though the FIA has taken the questionable decisions to introduce its rotation policy at the expense of WRC events -- 15 this year compared with 12 for 2009 and 2010, Rally Ireland being dropped from the latter. The aim is to present countries including Jordan, Indonesia and Russia with the opportunity to host one round respectively.

But for now at least, Rally Ireland has established itself on the motorsport world map and has shown that, given the chance, it can compete with the very best.

-credit: jason craig

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Ronan Morgan