Pirelli International moves to Gateshead

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The Independent Online

Next year's Pirelli International Rally will be based in Gateshead after organisers of the event decided to sever their 24-year links with Carlisle.

The decision was made because the rally is considered to have outgrown the Cumbrian city, with the Gateshead area offering a larger population base and better facilities.

Gateshead City Council has also played a key role in the switch for a rally that was abandoned this year because of foot-and-mouth disease.

"It will be a great wrench to leave Carlisle, we've enjoyed some tremendous times there," said Ed Graham, spokesman for the rally which takes place in April next year. "However, we must get greater media and public exposure for the manufacturers and competitors."

Most of the event will still take place in the famous rallying territory of the Kielder Forest. But a floodlit "spectator stage" has been constructed at Watergate Park in Gateshead and will be tackled as a forerunner on the evening before the first leg. The start and finish of the rally will be held at Gateshead International Stadium.