Sky Sports News’ F1 analyst Tony Jardine will be teaming up with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Maurice Hamilton to enter the 2012 Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally (taking place on 6-7 April). To celebrate the third round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) coming to Armagh, a public Rally Forum hosted by media man and rally competitor Jardine will be held at the Armagh City Hotel on Wednesday 4 April at 20:00hrs. Fans will get to meet rally superstars and bosses including Andreas Mikklesen, Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Gerard Quinn, Malcolm Wilson, Maurice Hamilton and Jimmy McRae.
Jardine and Hamilton will be competing over the Easter weekend in the MIS Motorsport backed and ProSpeed run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX owned by Northern Ireland’s Raymond Mason. Jardine placed this car 35th overall last November in Wales on the final round of the 2011 World Rally Championship (WRC). Now switching from gravel to Irish tarmac stages, the team’s Kumho tyres will first see action around Belfast’s docks where the world-famous Titanic was built over 100 years ago and where the opening stage will be held.The Circuit of Ireland Rally is one of the oldest rallies in the world, with big names such as Colin McRae and Paddy Hopkirk having won there and the likes of Hannu Mikkola and Henri Toivonen having contested these Emerald Isle stages. In 2012, there will be a total of 15 stages, with the ceremonial start in Belfast City Centre on Friday 6 April at approximately 15:00hrs before the rally heads to the Titanic Quarter for the Super Special Stage. Directly following this will be two more stages (each run twice) on sweeping tarmac roads in County Tyrone before the competitors then arrive in Armagh (60 miles southwest of Belfast) for an overnight halt at the end of day one.
Day two starts in Armagh on Saturday with a service at 08:00hrs and consists of 10 demanding stages in the counties of Down and Armagh, including a power stage in the City of Lisburn (9 miles west of Belfast). The rally will finish in Armagh at 19:00hrs.
The media duo of Jardine and Hamilton is a successful rallying partnership having previously notched up numerous class wins and podium finishes on national rallies, 28th overall on the 2008 Topaz Donegal Rally in a Skoda WRC car, and 35th overall and first in class on the 2002 Network Q Rally of Great Britain in an MG ZR.
Jardine can’t wait to get back in the Mitsubishi and commented, “It’s a quick and reliable Raymond Mason car tended by Olly Marshall and the ProSpeed team so it should perform well on the tarmac stages. Maurice is from Bangor and this will be his second time competing on home soil as my trusty co-driver. I always look forward to rallying in Ireland and think it should be a challenging, but fun event for us. The Chief Executive of MIS Motorsport, Dermot Hanafin – who is himself a former and successful Irish rally driver - will be following our progress enthusiastically by helicopter, so I’d better make sure I have MIS branding on the roof of our car!”
To keep up-to-date on the team’s progress throughout the Circuit of Ireland Rally, follow the team on Twitter: @Jardine_Int and join the millions of viewers that will be tuning in to watch the live coverage on Eurosport.