UK absent from 2023 WRC calendar again
The WRC is heading towards a calendar comprising 14 rounds next year, including eight in Europe, thus reviving a structure in line with its standards that preceded the Covid pandemic. The United Kingdom, which has not hosted a round on its soil since 2019, came close to making a comeback last season with an event in Northern Ireland, but public funding problems have jeopardized the project. , paving the way for the arrival of the Ypres Rally on the program of the discipline.
The file was put on the table again this year with promoter and businessman Bobby Willis, and a slot was even allocated to the event in August, but discussions finally broke down due to lack of agreement with the Government of Northern Ireland. Not a real surprise, knowing that the manager of the WRC rounds, Simon Larkin, had declared as early as June that the holding of an event in the United Kingdom was unlikely unless “something spectacular” was to happen.
And it is this same Larkin who has just announced that the event will not return to the calendar in 2023. He nevertheless insisted on the fact that the United Kingdom indeed represented a “essential market” for the WRC, as the championship continues to support a return to the region in the near future, assuming funding is forthcoming.
“The UK round will not take place in 2023”Larkin told Motorsport.com. “Of course this is a key market. Bobby Willis has worked hard to create an exciting round in Northern Ireland which is very exciting for us and we will continue to do everything in our power to help him in his task.”
Craig Breen during the 2019 Rally Britain.
More candidates than slots available
While the United Kingdom will still not be in the game next year, the WRC has received many expressions of interest from other European countries to join the 2023 calendar. Among them, Germany has has already revealed its intentions as the event across the Rhine, which appeared in the category in 2002, had become over the years a mainstay of the championship until its last edition held in 2019.
However, it is unlikely that the Ypres Rally will remain on the calendar next year according to Larkin, who would still like to see Belgium continue to host events in other categories. “We have many more options than places available”he continues. “We think we’re going to be able to pick the best rounds, both sportingly and commercially and logistically, which is ultimately a rich man’s problem. We want Ypres to stay in our fold. We would like him to be registered in the ERC [European Rally Championship]and that he can occasionally come to the WRC.”
Mikko Hirvonen during the 2010 Jordan Rally.
Towards a return to the Middle East
As far as extra-European rallies are concerned, the WRC plans to organize a round in the desert, in the Middle East, while the WRC’s last visit to the region dates back to 2011, on the occasion of the Jordan Rally. At the same time, Rally Mexico will return in 2023, its last edition having been cut short due to the implementation of the first containment measures linked to the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
The country would thus join Kenya, whose contract runs until 2026, as well as New Zealand and Japan, which are both working on their renewal on the calendar. “If everything goes our way, then I think we’re going to be very happy [du calendrier]”continues Larkin. “We believe this is the best calendar for the teams, for the sport, in every way. We are going to become a real world championship again, integrating the best possible rounds. The teams are consulted on the logistics , our ambition being to increase the number of rounds, especially outside Europe. I am very aware of the problems of logistics and how difficult it can be in terms of freight. We are understanding and very open on this subject .”
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