Top local rally drivers Eugene Donnelly and Toni Kelly joined
forces today at Junction One International Outlet Shopping Centre
to officially launch the 2009 Ulster Rally. This
year’s event takes place on 127 competitive miles and 14 stages in
the Antrim and Mid-Ulster regions. Set to kick off early afternoon
on Friday 21st August with a ceremonial start at Antrim’s historic
Barbican Gate, the rally finishes at the same location on Saturday
22nd August.

Originally held in the Antrim area in 1976 when the inaugural
Ulster Rally took place, the international event returns to the
region for the first time in over 20 years. Rally HQ will be based
at the Holiday Inn Express at Junction One and the event’s Central
Service Park will be located in a section of the outlet shopping
complex’s extensive car parks. Organisers expect 300 drivers and
co-drivers, supported by over 600 service crew, to be competing in
150 rally cars over the two day period.

Ballygawley based multi-activity centre is once again
backing the race as title sponsor and managing director Benny
O’Hanlon said, “As a racing enthusiast this is an event worthy of
support – the calibre of drivers racing on our roads makes for a
very exciting major spectator event. This is a marvellous showcase
for Antrim and beyond.”

Leona Barr, centre manager of Junction One who hosted today’s
launch said, “We’re delighted to stage this special launch of the Ulster Rally and we’re looking forward to welcoming
visitors from all over the world to Junction One during Rally
week-end in August.”

The international event will attract competitions from the Irish
Tarmac Rally Championship, the British Rally Championship, the
British Rally Challenge and the UK and Irish Mitsubishi Evo
Challenge. The event also forms a round of both the
British and Irish Ford Fiesta ST series and the UK Citroen C2 Cup
and Suzuki Swift Sport Cup.

The Ulster Rally is expected to attract up to 10,000
spectators from Ireland, the UK and further afield at both the
start ramp and throughout each special stage. It’s also set to be
broadcast on local TV, nationally and on global networks reaching
an estimated audience of 30,000 on Rally Week-end.

Clerk of Course Michael Johnston paid tribute to key sponsor and partner Antrim Borough Council saying, “It’s
wonderful to make a fresh start this year with a new start/finish
zone and brand new stages which will undoubtedly challenge both old
hands and newcomers to the race. This is the second year that have been the main sponsor of the Ulster Rally –
their passion for the event is awesome and we are delighted to have
them on board again.”

“In addition to cash funding, Antrim Borough Council have provided
support and the use of facilities including the excellent Vanguard
Depot for our scrutineering teams. We’re also very pleased today to
welcome and thank representatives of our many sponsors whose
support is especially appreciated in today’s difficult economic

For the first time the organisers are delighted to welcome
competitors from the Renault Clio R3 West European Trophy.
Explained Michael Johnston, “This has been made possible due to
support from the Events Growth Fund and we wish to thank the
Department of Culture Arts and Leisure and Sports Minister Gregory
Campbell for their invaluable funding support.”

“We’re also grateful to Junction One for hosting today’s launch
event and of course for enabling us to create a Central Service
Park in the shopping centre’s large car park.”

Newly elected Deputy Mayor of Antrim Cllr Alan Lawther said he was
delighted that the Borough is to play host to such a prestigious
sporting spectacular. “It’s an honour for Antrim to welcome the
Ulster Rally back to the Antrim region. We’re looking forward to
both local people and international guests sampling the delights of
Antrim and enjoying a safe yet thrilling motorsport event. On
behalf of the Council I’d like to wish the organisers the very best
of luck for August 21st and 22nd and hopefully we’ll be blessed
with some superb weather.”