Published Thursday, 27 March 2014
Jimmy McRae and co driver Mike Nicholson winning the Circuit of Ireland in 1980 (© Pacemaker)
It was confirmed on Thursday that some rising European stars have joined this year's entry list.
Irishman Craig Breen and Dutch driver Kevin Abbring will be definite starters when the European Rally Championship comes to Belfast for the first time.
Meanwhile, McRae was delighted to travel from his home in Scotland for the launch event, recalling his first big win on the circuit.
"The Circuit of Ireland is very special to me. It was the first major event I won back in 1980 after an epic battle with Ari Vatanen in my DTV Chevette HSR," he said.
"It's a great event and one that drivers both from Northern Ireland and further afield are really looking forward to."
The fans here are amazing and will help to add to the fantastic atmosphere over the three days.
There are only three weeks to go until the Circuit of Ireland gets underway.
"There is always a buzz around the Circuit of Ireland, but it feels particularly special because it is the only round of the FIA European Rally Championship in the UK and Ireland," Craig Breen said.
"My co-driver Scott Martin and I are entered in the second round of the Dunlop Irish National Championship next week and we intend to use that event as an extensive tarmac test session before taking on our European rivals at Easter."
Around 130 drivers from across the globe are expected to compete in the Circuit of Ireland, covering more than 230km across Counties Down and Antrim from Thursday 17 April until Saturday 19 April.
Event Director Bobby Willis is hoping thousands of fans will support what is one of the oldest rallies in the world.
"From the qualifying stage at the picturesque Ulster Folk & Transport Museum to the ceremonial start at Belfast City Centre and the service park at Titanic Belfast, as well as many towns and villages, the atmosphere is set to be electric," he said.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, added: "There is huge interest in this newly revamped series and the event will help raise the profile of Northern Ireland - not only for those who come here to see the rally for themselves, but also to TV audiences across Europe and the world."
© UTV News