|All of Northern Ireland`s 33 car clubs were represented at the high-profile reception. MSA Chairman Alan Gow, Motor Sports Council Chairman Graham Stoker and MSA Chief Executive Colin Hilton were also present at Hillsborough along with many prominent past and present competitors and personalities from Ulster`s thriving motor sport community. Those attending included rally legend Paddy Hopkirk, former Formula Nippon champion Richard Lyons and current Junior World Rally Championship prospect Kris Meeke.
To illustrate the depth and breadth of motor sport in the province, Hillsborough also featured a display of selected competition vehicles: Eugene Donnelly`s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship winning Toyota, Robert Morgan`s title winning hillclimb car and the kart of Northern Ireland Junior Champion Samantha Thom.
"Motor sport makes a major contribution to the lives of people in Northern Ireland," emphasised the Secretary of State. "It not only brings excitement to the spectators who follow the various sports and great pride to those involved in organising and competing, it also brings significant financial benefits to the local economy and beyond."
Peter Hain stated that along with the economic benefits, the various motor sports have also produced many drivers and motorcyclists of outstanding calibre who have excelled on the international stage. He also paid tribute to those involved in organising events throughout Northern Ireland for their professionalism and the contribution they make to society and the economy.
"Without the commitment of the members of the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs and all the other motor sports organisations, the people of Northern Ireland would not have the opportunity to enjoy wonderful international events such as the Ulster Rally, the Circuit of Ireland and the North West 200. Hopefully next year in conjunction with Rally Ireland we will have secured a round of the World Rally Championship in Ireland," concluded the Secretary of State.
"It was a very constructive and productive reception not only highlighting the huge contribution that motor sport continues to make to the lives of those in Northern Ireland but also reinforcing our positive relationship with Government," reported Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive. "Peter Hain is a true motor sport supporter; he regularly attends the British Grand Prix and has performed a key role in the success of Wales Rally GB. The MSA is confident that the Secretary of State`s understanding of and enthusiasm for all forms of motor sport will continue to benefit the motor sport community."
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Picture shows (l-r):
Graham Stoker (Chairman, Motor Sports Council); Nicky Moffitt (Chairman, MSA Regional Committee); The Rt Hon Peter Hain MP (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland); Alan Gow (Chairman, Motor Sports Association).