As previously reported, WRC is aiming to host an expanded 14-event championship next year, comprising eight European rallies and six flyaway rounds, as the series seeks to re-establish a more familiar structure ahead of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Great Britain, who have not held a round since Wales Rally GB in 2019, were among the contenders for a spot on the calendar in the form of Rally Northern Ireland. However, the event struggled to secure the necessary government funding.
The WRC has worked closely with Northern Ireland Rally promoter and businessman Bobby Willis over the past two years to bring the proposal to fruition.
An August slot on the 2022 calendar was kept open for the rally but the bid collapsed when a Northern Ireland Government funding agreement was not promised within Motorsport UK’s timetable.
In June, WRC Events Director Simon Larkin said a race in Britain was unlikely unless “something dramatic” happened and has now confirmed the event will not take place in 2023.
However, Larkin has reiterated that Britain is a “critical market” for the WRC and the championship remains supportive of a return in the near future if funding can be sought.
“The UK round will not take place in 2023,” Larkin told Autosport.
“Of course it is a very critical market. The effort that Bobby Willis has put in is creating a very exciting event in Northern Ireland and it is very appealing to us and we will continue to do everything we can to help him and make it happen.”
Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport images
While the UK is expected to drop out, the WRC has received significant interest from European nations to join the 2023 schedule.
Germany is among the new contenders in the mix to secure a spot on the calendar. The tarmac event made its WRC debut in 2002 and was a fixture on the schedule before hosting its final WRC round in 2019.
According to Larkin, WRC has “far more options than slots” to fill its eight European spots on the 2023 calendar, although it appears Ypres Rally Belgium will not return next year.
The famous tarmac event made its WRC debut in 2021 after being drafted to fill a void left by Rally Northern Ireland’s failure to secure funding, and the event returned again this year in similar circumstances.
“We have a lot more options than slots,” Larkin added. “We believe we’ll be able to pick the best events that work for everyone sportingly, marketing and logistically, which is a good issue.
When asked about Ypres’ future, he replied: “We want to keep Ypres in our championship families. “We would like to keep it in the ERC [European Rally Championship] So we have the opportunity to maybe get into the WRC occasionally.”
Outside of Europe, Autosport believes the WRC is likely to host a desert race in the Middle East, while officials in Mexico have indicated the championship will return in 2023.
The last time WRC visited the Middle East was in 2011 for Rally Jordan, while Mexico was dropped from the calendar after 2020 due to the pandemic.
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Focus WRC
Photo by: Sutton Images
This would join other long-distance events in Kenya, which have a contract until 2026, and rounds in New Zealand and Japan, both working towards a 2023 extension, plus one more round.
“If it turns out the way we planned, we think we’ll be very happy [with the calendar]’ Larkin said.
“We think it’s the best calendar for the teams for the sport and for everything. We’re back to a real world championship with the strongest events we can do.
“Teams will be consulted on logistics as our aim is to expand the number of events and the number of events outside of Europe.
“I am very aware of the current logistics schedules and how difficult it is, especially with ocean freight. We are sympathetic and consultative.”