TOP motor sport action could be set to roar into Sunderland.
An attempt to bring a major motoring event to the city is being spearheaded by Sky Sports F1 pundit Tony Jardine.
The former assistant manager of the McLaren Formula One team visited Wearside for last summer’s airshow, and was impressed by the seafront spectacular.
Having initially hoped to stage a classic car event, attention has switched to the potential of hosting a stage of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC).
Meetings have taken place between Mr Jardine and Sunderland Council officials, with both eager to add to the city’s growing portfolio of events.
While the parties insist talks are at an early stage, Mr Jardine told the Echo he is hopeful progress will be made in the coming months.
“There is a great interest in bringing motor sport events to Sunderland.
“What I got from Sunderland having experienced their events first hand is that they are incredibly driven.
“One of the things that we’re investigating is the European Rally Championships.
“A big event like that makes a lot of sense.
“It’s just an ambition at the moment, it’s about getting the timing right and the funding.
“But I have only been encouraged so far and I am determined that we will be adding to Sunderland’s repertoire of big events.”
Bringing a stage of the ERC to the city was made all the more possible by the Circuit of Ireland losing its race for 2013 due to funding problems.
François Ribeiro, Motorsport Development Director at Eurosport Events, said they are eager to replace the Armagh-based race, which last year attracted a global television audience of almost nine million, with another UK stage.
He also confirmed interest from Sunderland.
He said: “Of course the UK is an important market for rallying and a UK ERC round in the future would be a very attractive proposition.
“The Circuit of Ireland Rally organiser recently contacted us to get back the slot they have lost in 2013.
“We know that there might be interest from other regions of the UK, such as Scotland or Sunderland, but we can accommodate only one ERC event in UK.”
Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson confirmed talks have taken place.
He said: “The city council wants to see more popular events held here and continues to explore opportunities.
“As the UK centre for advanced automotive manufacturing, we have looked at whether it would be possible to bring some form of motorsport to the city.
“We have, alongside other representatives from across the region, held some exploratory talks with the UK Motor Sports Association.”