Ireland to host World Rally start

The 2009 World Rally Championship (WRC) will start in the north west of Ireland, it has been announced.

For the first time in 30 years, the beginning of the international sporting event will be held outside its traditional home in Monaco's Monte Carlo.

Around 250,000 spectators visited the region for Rally Ireland 2007, generating 48 million euros for the region.

Rally Ireland's John Naylor said its previous success has been recognised by the WRC, which rated the circuit was the second best round of the 2007 championship.

"Across the region festivals are been organised and this event will once again provide fans with the opportunity to see the world's top rally drivers battling the testing stages in the North West and all for free," he said.

The WRC will hold 12 rounds across the world, reaching a global TV audience of over 800 million people.

Enniskillen in County Fermanagh will host the opening ceremony on January 29, with the first stage taking place the following morning in Cavan.

Competitors will drive through Leitrim, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Sligo, and Roscommon before the final stage, in Donegal on February 1, is broadcast live worldwide.

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