Monte Carlo Rally winner lends support to Festival of Speed

Kenny McKinstry looks on nervously as UTV personality Pamela Ballentine takes the wheel of his Subaru.
Kenny McKinstry looks on nervously as UTV personality Pamela Ballentine takes the wheel of his Subaru.

MONTE Carlo Rally winner and motorsport legend Paddy Hopkirk has added his support to the Festival of Speed at the Maze Long Kesh on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

The Festival of Speed is an exciting new event on the Northern Ireland sporting calendar - a celebration of car culture and competition, full throttle motorbike action, and aviation history.

“It’s wonderful to hear about a new Festival of Speed event for Northern Ireland, and that it is going to take place at the Maze Long Kesh site where I raced back in the late Fifties,” said Hopkirk.

“I drove an Austin Healey ‘Frog-Eye’ Sprite at Long Kesh airfield, competing with the likes of Robin McKinney who, if I’m not mistaken, had an ex-John Surtees Aston Martin.”

The inaugural Festival of Speed guarantees spectators a pit stop in petrol-head heaven with a Super Special Stage Rally, car show, auto-testing, an off-road experience, motorcycle stunt show, motocross, and much, much more.

Eddie Rowan, Northern Ireland Tourist Board Events Manager, said: “I am delighted that the Festival of Speed has engaged with the ni2012 programme of events and am confident that everyone involved can capitalize on the current international focus on Northern Ireland and this superb offering.

“I welcome this event and I have no doubt it will grow from strength to strength for many years to come, helping to showcase Northern Ireland as a great events destination, as well as providing a major boost to the local economy.”

The event is, of course, taking place within the Lisburn City Council area and Alderman Jim Dillon, Chairman of the Council’s Economic Development Committee said: “Lisburn City Council is pleased to be supporting the inaugural Festival of Speed at Maze Long Kesh and wishes the event organisers the best of luck in their endeavours.

“It is expected that thousands of visitors will attend this one day event to witness an exciting and extensive range of motorsport activities.”

The festival has received investment from the Lagan Rural Partnership (under the Rural Development Programme) and Chair of the Partnership’s Joint Council Committee, Councillor Anne Marie Beattie, said: “Lagan Rural Partnership is pleased to be supporting The Festival of Speed given its potential to benefit the rural economy of this area.”

The Festival of Speed is the brainchild of father and son team Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell, members of the Ulster Automobile Club and the event’s organisers. “The concept for a Festival of Speed has been bouncing about for a few years now, but it would not have been possible without the support of so many people,” said Aaron.

“We are extremely excited about what the event has to offer and the enormous potential for further growth over the coming years.”

Paddy Hopkirk, the man synonymous with Mini following that 1964 Monte Carlo victory, shares Aaron’s enthusiasm: “To see that there is a new motorsport event for Northern Ireland is great news. I applaud the effort, vision, and passion of the people organising The Festival of Speed and wish them every success.”

For those who like their motorsport fast and furious the highlight could well be the Super Special Stage Rally, complete with Crossover Bridge.

It will be particularly ‘special’ for former UK Mitsubishi EVO Rally Champion, Philip Morrow: “I was brought up beside the venue and it’s fantastic for me as a rally driver to have an event right on my doorstep. It will also be great for the general public to have the chance to get so close to the rally cars and with all the other elements The Festival of Speed promises to be a family day out to remember.”

In addition to the Super Special Stage Rally spectators can experience the awesome power of the rally cars of yesteryear courtesy of Slowly Sideways Ireland? The growling Group ‘B’ rally cars of the 80’s, now banned from competition due to their sheer power; provide sights and sounds not to be missed.

From the old to the new and the next generation of rally stars will be represented by competitors from Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland, teenagers looking to follow in the footsteps of Fisher, McHale, and McGarrity.

Speed and precision is also the name of the game in Auto-Testing, another of the Festival of Speed’s elements, with the top guns from the Ulster Automobile Club’s Championship on hand to demonstrate their breathtaking driving skill.

The 2012 Festival of Speed Maze Long Kesh also showcases a complete cross- section of vehicles, with gleaming Italian supercars rubbing shoulders with the latest in 4x4 technology at the Ireland Off-Road Experience purpose-built course and the ballistic Bowler Wildcat, as driven by BBC Top Gear’s Richard Hammond.

Fans who prefer their motorsport to have two-wheels, not four, are also in for a treat. Ryan Griffiths (alias Flyin’ Ryan) brings his fantastic family motorcycle stunt show to the Festival of Speed, complete with pulse racing pyrotechnics.

Mud-splattered competitors from six to 60 will also be in grass-track action courtesy of the Motocross Club of Northern Ireland (MCCNI).

Of course, no Festival of Speed would be complete without doffing your cap in the direction of those magnificent men in their flying machines. The Maze Long Kesh is home to the Ulster Aviation Society and the on-site hangar boasts a growing collection of aircraft including a World War II Grumman F4F Wildcat and low-level strike jet Blackburn Buccaneer.

Throw into the mix a food and merchandising village; Dizzyland’s Carnival family amusement fair, Cool FM radio road show, plus a designated charity for the event’s Car Show (Cash 4 Kids) and this cavalcade of fast cars and bikes is set to become a welcome addition to the Northern Ireland sporting calendar.

So if you feel the need...the need for speed... then the 2012 Lisburn City Festival of Speed Maze Long Kesh is just the ticket.

The website - www.festivalofspeedni.com - will be up and running from next week.