More than a third of the competitive mileage of next month’s Modern Tyres Ulster Rally (18/19 August) will be all new as the organising Northern Ireland Motor Club Ltd (NIMC) look to intensify the challenge.

It promises to have a mix of everything from smooth and fast-flowing country roads to bumpy, tight and technical country tracks that are barely the width of a car in some places. As always, the weather is another curve ball drivers and co-drivers must overcome if they are to be successful.

The Friday element is completely changed to last year and will consist of one special stage in the Rostrevor area and a second on the outskirts of Banbridge. Run twice, these will total 32.36-miles, with the second pass more difficult as these will be played out as dusk arrives and darkness falls.

Saturday is the longest of the two days for competitors, both in terms of time and distance. Dotted between Armagh and the host city of Newry, six more speed tests weighing in at 65-miles await.

As always, rally goers will have unparalleled access to the cars and the stars at one of two town centre regroups: on the Friday afternoon (5pm) Banbridge Civic Building will provide the backdrop and from midday the following day it is the turn of the Armagh City Hotel to play host to the crews.

Returning Clerk of the Course Wayne Turkington says there was a general consensus amongst the organising team to give the route for this year’s Ulster Rally a fresh twist. “The reputation of the event is one that challenges and rewards those who take part in equal measure – and we feel the tweaks that have been endorsed for the forty sixth running of it build on that,” said Turkington.

“Friday’s stages have not been used on a rally for some time now and we expect these to ask all the right sort of questions of the crews. Saturday, meanwhile, takes us to more familiar territory.”

Being a counting round of the cross-border Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship, and the FIA European Rally Trophy (ERT), a strong entry is expected for next month’s Modern Tyres Ulster Rally – a highlight of the local sporting calendar.

Up-to-date information for competitors intending to make the trip to Newry on Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19, is now available via the Sportity App using UR2023. A free spectator programme will be released online at the start of rally week.