Cur­rent events un­der pres­sure as mul­ti­ple na­tions join the bid­ding

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans Photos: mck­lein-im­age­

The World Rally Cham­pi­onship stands on the verge of huge global ex­pan­sion which will put some of the long­est-stand­ing names on the se­ries’ cal­en­dar un­der pres­sure.

Thir­teen coun­tries have con­firmed in­ter­est in a place on the WRC cal­en­dar, with some re­ported to be ready as soon as next sea­son. In al­pha­bet­i­cal order, the 13 are: Abu Dhabi, Canada, Chile, Croa­tia, In­dia, Ja­pan, Jor­dan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, North­ern Ire­land, Rus­sia and Tur­key.

WRC Pro­moter’s Oliver Ciesla said they would be looking at ev­ery as­pi­rant.

“It’s a re­flec­tion of the strength of the world cham­pi­onship that so many coun­tries want to come and join us,” said Ciesla. “We’re cer­tainly looking at a more global se­ries in years to come – a process which, of course, is al­ready un­der­way with China’s ar­rival this year.”

FIA rally direc­tor Jarmo Ma­ho­nen ad­mit­ted such de­mand did bring its own headache.

“We have com­mit­ted to the man­u­fac­tur­ers to keep the cal­en­dar at 14 ral­lies,” Ma­ho­nen told MN. “In­creas­ing the num­ber of ral­lies each sea­son isn’t an op­tion. But we have to do some­thing. If we stay [with the cur­rent ral­lies] then noth­ing will ever change.”

Since his ar­rival as pres­i­dent of the FIA in 2009, Jean Todt has stated his de­sire to see the world cham­pi­onship be­com­ing more global.

“This is a world cham­pi­onship,” said Todt. “Our cal­en­dar needs to bet­ter re­flect that.”

The one re­gion still miss­ing is the one Todt’s most keen to see re­turn: Africa. While South Africa has come close to run­ning a can­di­date event in the past, there seems lit­tle po­ten­tial for the con­ti­nent which de­liv­ered the iconic Sa­fari Rally.

The mes­sage from the FIA and WRC Pro­moter is clear: only the strong­est ral­lies will sur­vive in the race to re­tain and gain world cham­pi­onship sta­tus.

While nei­ther Ciesla or Ma­ho­nen would talk on the record about spe­cific events in­cluded on this year’s cal­en­dar, sources in both or­gan­i­sa­tions have con­firmed Italy and France’s is­land ral­lies on Sar­dinia and Cor­sica are likely to find them­selves in the drop zone if they can’t find a way to re­turn to the main­land.

The source said: “There’s pres­sure on ral­lies now. These coun­tries are se­ri­ous and they’re com­ing with a very strong propo­si­tion. For ex­am­ple, we’re miss­ing a re­ally rough rally in the style of the Acrop­o­lis or Cyprus – but Tur­key fits that bill very well. The proposal from them is away from Is­tan­bul and all the has­sle that brought and back to An­talya; at the right time of the year, this could be a re­ally great rough-road rally.”

Ev­i­dence of the con­fi­dence within the WRC Pro­moter is the ap­par­ent dis­missal of a re­turn to Jor­dan – even in the face of ex­traor­di­nar­ily strong words from Jor­dan’s Prince Feisal Al-hus­sein.

The Prince, who is also chair­man of Jor­dan Mo­tor­sport, said: “Mo­tor­sport has a rich tra­di­tion here in Jor­dan from the legacy of King Hus­sein. King Ab­dul­lah is also keen on mo­tor­sport and we work as a team to pro­mote the sport.

“We are sur­rounded, here in Jor­dan, by war and po­lit­i­cal prob­lems, but we want to see sport thrive in the re­gion. We are keen for the WRC to re­turn and want to see what the pro­moter re­quires. I am de­lighted with the work done this week by my team at Jor­dan Mo­tor­sport.”

Pri­vately, the pro­moter con­firms its in­ter­est the Mid­dle East lies with the greater fi­nan­cial clout of Abu Dhabi rather than a re­turn to Am­man for the first time since 2011 when Jor­dan made its third and fi­nal WRC ap­pear­ance.

As re­ported in MN, the Cir­cuit of Ire­land’s best chance of a WRC place rests within the Rally GB frame­work and the po­ten­tial for mov­ing Bri­tain’s round of the cham­pi­onship to Belfast when the Welsh agree­ment runs out in 2018. The Cir­cuit’s pro­file was fur­ther boosted last week when it was voted Best Event or Fes­ti­val Ex­pe­ri­ence at the North­ern Ire­land Tourism Awards last week.

Tur­key could solve lack of a ‘rough’ event Jor­dan isn’t favoured by WRC Pro­moter Cir­cuit of Ire­land’s best chance of slot lies with a ro­ta­tion with Rally GB

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