DUNLOP ENDS SPONSORSHIP OF NATIONAL RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
July 17, 2014 by Leo Nulty
ONE of the strongest and longest sponsorship associations in Irish motorsport will cease at the end of the season as Dunlop has announced it will not be renewing its title sponsorship of the National Rally Championship.
The announcement brings to an end a glorious chapter that began in 2000 and has seen the series become one of the most popular and envied rally championships in Europe. It is also being made to allow the championship organisers the opportunity to seek a new championship sponsor for 2015 and beyond.
Commenting on the decision, Steve Lynch, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, Goodyear Dunlop Ireland said, “Dunlop has chosen to focus its motorsport activities on circuit racing and will continue to invest in targeted international and national championships. Dunlop thanks the organisers and competitors in the National Rally Championship for a long and successful partnership and hopes to continue to build strong sporting relationships with Motorsport Ireland in the future.”
During its tenure as title sponsor there has been many notable success stories – Donegal’s Paul Harris (Subaru) won the Dunlop series in 2000 while in 2002 Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) became the first driver to win three national titles – a feat that still stands the test of time. The Donnelly’s, Eugene (2003) and Charlie (2006) became the first set of brothers to win the series. Back to back victories in 2008/2009 for Cavan’s Patrick Elliott ended a period of ten years since the feat was previously achieved. In 2010 Welshman Melvyn Evans (Subaru WRC) became the first overseas driver to win the series with the magnificent Vard Memorial Trophy crossing the Irish Sea for the very first time.
With a high profile, one of the principal reasons behind the success of the Dunlop National Rally Championship was the synergy between the Dunlop National Rally Championship Sub-Committee, Motorsport Ireland and Dunlop. The sub-committee led for the most part by Richard Talbot streamlined many facets of the series. With a total of 14 clubs involved, the group constantly tweaked the series and showed their awareness of factors such as the downturn in the economic climate by reducing the series to an eight round format. Indeed, just recently, the committee has introduced a new rota system that will give a different eight round campaign on successive seasons.
Further to the Dunlop announcement, Richard Talbot remarked, “The National Rally Championship sub-committee would like to thank Dunlop for their fantastic support and sponsorship of the Ireland’s leading rally championship over the last fourteen years. Dunlop through its management Steve Lynch and former MD Richard Warbrick have been a pleasure to work with during their time as title sponsors.” He added, “The championship has seen many innovations during the period of Dunlop involvement that will leave a legacy and provide the platform to continue as Ireland’s leading rally championship. We have begun the process of negotiation for a new sponsor and we really look forward to implementing our new rota system in 2015 and 2016 that includes a new round each year, this format will be repeated into the 2017 and 2018 seasons.”
Meanwhile, Alex Sinclair, Chief Executive, Motorsport Ireland commented, “The relationship between Dunlop and Irish motor sport is over 110 years old. From time to time during this period there has been a shift in emphasis, but the relationship has stayed strong throughout. I am confident it will continue to remain so. It is to the credit of our clubs and championship committee, led by Richard Talbot, that Dunlop’s sponsorship of our premier National Rally Championship has been such an outstanding success.”
The current Dunlop National Rally Championship will resume on August 10th. next with the Clonmel based Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally, round five of the eight round campaign and is set for a thrilling finish. Eleven points cover the top trio of Paddy McVeigh, Steve Wood and Roy White while Declan Boyle and Hugh Hunter, albeit each with two non-finishes, remain a potent threat.