LOEB WINS ON 205 T16 DEBUT Mahonen: Rally China cancellation has forced 2017 calendar rethink
BRC 3 title winner Wheeler eyeing a comeback after crash
FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen has told Motorsport News the cancellation of Rally China has ‘derailed’ next year’s calendar.
The calendar had been coming together and was expected to be revealed in September. Now, however, the full schedule of 2017 rallies won’t be known much before the end of the year.
Mahonen said: “Everything was looking good and we were happy with 2017, now this happens we have to go back to the drawing board and push the puzzles around. I think it’s fair to say China has derailed the calendar for next year.”
The governing body and WRC Promoter will restart negotiations with China, but a question mark over one long haul event has a knock-on effect for the rest of the calendar.
Mahonen added that he wants a significant rethink from this year’s calendar.
“The  calendar is not balanced,” he said. “We shouldn’t have six gravel rallies in a row and then we have two big gaps . We would like to see Corsica back to its spring date, running in April.”
The first three rallies of the season – along with the dates – will be confirmed as Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico from a WRC Commission meeting today (Wednesday). More of the calendar will come from World Motor Sport Council at the end of September, but it could take another month from there before the full schedule is known.
Chris Wheeler has sealed the BRC 3 title and vowed to return to rallying after his horror crash on the Nicky Grist Stages in July.
Wheeler has won the title as none of his rivals have entered the final round, the Rally Isle of Man, on September 15/17.
Wheeler had to be cut out of his Citroen DS 3 R3 after a driveshaft exploded on landing after a crest on the Nicky Grist. He and Yan Griffiths were thrown into a tree head on.
Wheeler said: “Next year I’ll have a bit of fun. I’ll do a few small events to get my confidence up. I want to get back out properly in 2018.”
Wheeler suffered a fractured kneecap, torn ligaments and internal bruising to the chest and back from the crash. He is now walking without crutches with the aide of a knee brace. ● Wheeler’s co-driver Yan Griffiths faces a long road to recovery after damaging his back during the crash. He suffered a crushed L2 vertebrae and cracked l5 and coccyx. He’s in a body brace with scans upcoming in September. The Welshman has also vowed to return, after 24 years competing.