Rally cars to be part of Sunderland Festival as city steps up bid to host FIA European Rally Championship

Tony Jardine, who is hoping to bring a stage of the European Rally Championship to Sunderland, races at an event in Wales in 2011.
Tony Jardine, who is hoping to bring a stage of the European Rally Championship to Sunderland, races at an event in Wales in 2011.
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RALLY cars are set to roar around Sunderland as the city steps up its bid to host a major motorsport event.

Earlier this year, the Echo revealed Sky Sports F1 pundit Tony Jardine is spearheading a move to bring a stage of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) to Wearside.

Meetings have taken place between representatives of promoter HPS Jardine and Sunderland City Council bosses, who are supportive of the plans.

Now, Herrington Country Park is set to host a special rally stage as a taster for a bigger future event, as part of next weekend’s Sunderland Festival.

Some of Britain’s top rally drivers will be on hand to steer the powerful cars around a specially installed circuit, at 10.30am on Saturday, June 15.

And two lucky Echo readers will win the chance to experience the action first hand, with two passenger seat rides up for grabs in our competition.

Tony Jardine told the Echo he hopes Wearsiders will embrace the idea of “the people’s motor sport” coming to the city.

“I’m looking forward to coming, I think it’s a good idea to have a sampler like this, it will be a great rally event,” he said.

“Just remember, this is not Formula 1, this is the people’s motor sport because the cars resemble the cars you drive yourself, just a bit more powerful.

“It’s more accessible, you can see, feel and touch it. You can get up close to the cars and it’s a very approachable and friendly sport.

“I was blown away by the number of people at the Air Show last year and I’m told there are a lot of events held in Sunderland and generally things are very well attended.

“Those people going to the Sunderland Festival should get down there early and see the rally stage first.” Council leader Paul Watson has backed the event in the hope it can lead to further motorsport events in the city, which promoters say could showcase Sunderland to an international audience. We are always on the lookout to bring something new and exciting to our city and the surrounding area,” he said.

“With the Sunderland International Airshow, stadium concerts and the Sunderland Festival we have shown year after year that Sunderland is a great place to hold big events.

“This rally taster is a fantastic opportunity for people to see first hand some of the skill, dedication and preparation needed to drive a special rally stage.

“It also gives organisers and other interested parties a chance to sit down and talk through potential plans and opportunities.”