This year's Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, which takes place from Feburary 5 to 7, will head to Ballybrit for the first time in its 45 years.
Rally organisers, the Galway Motor Club, will use the race course to host the mechanical scrutineering on Friday February 5, providing spectators with the perfect opportunity to get up close to the cars and drivers prior to the high-speed action on Saturday and Sunday.
Also new for 2016 is the introduction of the latest R5 category of rally cars as the premier championship class for this rally. Already a number of these new cars have been sourced by drivers from Ireland and the UK, and early entries suggest there will be at least 10 of these new cars, with Ford Fiestas, Citroen DS3s and Skoda Fabias being the most popular versions.
Keith Cronin, three times British Rally Champion and previous Galway Rally winner, has chosen a Citroen, the Moffett brothers have opted for two Fiestas, and former National Rally champion Aaron MacHale will drive a Skoda.
World Rally car drivers will include former rally winner Tim McNulty from Meath in a Mini WRC, Declan Boyle from Donegal and Roy White from Clonmel in two Fiesta WRC cars, and Gary Jennings from Enniskillen and Declan Gallagher from Donegal, both driving Subaru WRC cars.
Galway-based Corrib Oil Company is this year's title sponsor, and managing director Eugene Dalton spoke of his appreciation for the commitment in running the first major tourist and sporting event of the year in Galway each February.
The Mayor of Galway City, Frank Fahy, said there were advantages for Galway in holding a major event so early in the year that encompassed not just the city, but other parts of the county such as Loughrea, Portumna and Gort over the three days of the rally.
The rally is expected to provide a welcome early season boost to visitor numbers, generating more than 2,000 bed nights annually.
The 2016 event will again be the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship with competitors travelling from all over the world for a chance to compete on the Galway roads. One such competitor is Kai-Dieter Kölle, who is again bringing his iconic Porsche 911 all the way from Germany to Galway. The five-times North German Rally champion is relishing the challenge, having competed in Galway for the first time last year.
More information can be found on the rally website www.galwayinternationalrally.com and on social media accounts @GalwayIntRally.