World Rally Championship: Tourism NI chiefs explore bringing series to province

Kris Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall in action at Rally Portugal earlier this month
Northern Ireland driver Kris Meeke could be in line to compete in the World Rally Championship on his home soil

A Tourism Northern Ireland chief has said talks are underway to explore the prospect of the province hosting a World Rally Championship round in 2020.

Tourism Northern Ireland's John McGrillen made the comment during his appearance before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

"It certainly is a potential as are a number of other events we are talking to promoters about," he said.

Mr McGrillen's comments followed a question from DUP MP Ian Paisley.

It comes after speculation in recent months about the event coming to Northern Ireland from Wales.

Mr Paisley had asked what big events are on the horizon for the region following The Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush next month.

"Once The Open is over, we have had some concerns that is a cliff edge, that there's no real significant event going forward," he said.

"Can you give us an idea of where the next chapter is? Is World Rally a potential for Northern Ireland, and if so what needs to be done next?"

Mr McGrillen added:"When we get a submission the first thing we ask the promoter to do is give us the evidence which allows us to make the case for investment in that particular event.

"The revenue support we get for the golf or any of the larger projects don't come within our budget, we have got to make a submission to the department.

"So we need to put a very strong business case to the department to make the argument that the event deserves support, that there is going to be a significant return in investment in tourism terms.

"As I understand it, we are in the process of gathering that information from those people you have been speaking to [World Rally].

"Once, we are in the process of doing that at the moment and once we have sufficient evidence to suggest that is a project that can really deliver for Northern Ireland, we will make that case to the department."

North Antrim MP Paisley attended the World Rally round in Spain last October to examine what bringing a WRC round could bring to Northern Ireland.