Published Tuesday, 03 April 2012
Motosport fans are set to travel from all over the world to watch the rallying. (© Circuit of Ireland)
Fans will see leading motorsport figures - including reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen - take to the track on Good Friday, with the rally being included as a round of the IRC for the first time.
"Hundreds of tickets have been sold across Asia, Australia and North America - which is fantastic," Bobby Willis, Event Director of the Donnelly Group Circuit, said.
"We're also expecting a lot of spectators from Scandinavia and mainland Europe, all ready to watch their favourite IRC drivers."
The added stage, marking Titanic's centenary year, features a purpose-built 2km track just yards from where the world-famous liner was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard.
The action in Titanic Quarter on Good Friday won’t stop on the track – stunt motorcycles, classic rally cars, sword swallowers, jugglers, magicians, a Celebrity Challenge ... We have it all!
Bobby Willis, Circuit of Ireland
In a UK first, fans will also have the rare opportunity to follow the progress of the drivers by accessing a GPS tracking system via personal computers or smartphones fitted with data cards.
"Whether out on the stages, stuck in the office or at home, rally fans will be able to track every competitor throughout the event using software which will be available to download free from the Circuit of Ireland website," Bobby Willis explained.
"This is a great advantage for the spectators out at the stages, because they will instantly be able to see how their favourite driver is doing."
Škoda UK Motorsport driver Mikkelsen will start the Circuit of Ireland with an 18-point advantage in the IRC title race and has rallied extensively in Ireland - but the Norwegian has yet to win a round on asphalt.
Tradition also seems to go against him, as there hasn't been a non-British/Irish winner of the event since Finland's Pentti Airikkala back in 1979.
The rally line-up also features the likes of 2010 IRC champion Juho Hänninen, who finished second to Mikkelsen in the season-opening SATA Rallye Açores but missed out on the following round in Gran Canaria.
The factory Škoda team nominated Jan Kopecký for the asphalt event instead and he went on to take the win - something he'll be looking to build on when he heads to the Circuit of Ireland for the first time.
Among the abundance of local talent will be Northern Ireland's Alastair Fisher - the lone M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 driver on the entry.
The 23-year-old will be looking to capitalise both on his wealth of local knowledge and on the expert guidance of his co-driver Rory Kennedy, who partnered his late uncle Bertie Fisher to three Circuit of Ireland wins in the past.
After the Titanic Super Special Stage, the action moves to host city Armagh before the rally returns to Lisburn for a city-centre street stage on Easter Saturday.
© UTV News