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If you’re like me, you are probably getting sick to death of the constant changes that are proposed for the World Rally Championship calendar, and the discussion on what events will be allowed in or pushed out of the calendar.

Not too long ago there was the constant raft of new regulations proposed or imposed on World Rally Cars themselves – new restrictions, new freedoms, new service regulations – the list went on and on. Over the last few months things have settled down as far as event regulations are concerned, but now a much more important war of words is being played out, that of the make-up of WRC calendars in the future.

Consider this: this year’s WRC consists of 16 events that take place pretty much right around the globe, from South America to Norway to New Zealand, and all squeezed into a 10-month period. So while manufacturers try to plan their logistics and prepare a budget that permits them to contest those 16 events, the FIA, it seems, are constantly in discussion about either increasing the calendar or arguing about what events stay in or what events are voted out.

The problem is this: there are already too many countries applying to run rounds of the WRC. At the moment 18 countries have successfully staged a round of the World Rally Championship and there are three more (Ireland, Jordan and Poland) who have indicated a desire to have their events included permanently. In addition, interest in being part of the WRC in the future has come from China, Malaysia, Russia, Abu Dhabi, Brazil and India. If just four of the countries listed above are given the nod without tossing out some existing under-performing events, the FIA are immediately faced with planning an even busier calendar, most likely more unworkable than the present one.

Every so often the word ‘rotation’ is mentioned in FIA circles – that is, established events get to be on the calendar every second year rather than every year. While this might be one means of placating everyone and introducing new events, it does little for events who rely heavily on putting on an annual show for sponsors and spectators. The latest line of thinking in the offices of the FIA appears to be that future WRC calendars would consist of 12 events each year, selected from a pool of 24 events. As can be imagined, this proposal has met with a very cool response from organizers, and rightly so. After all, a major sponsor of a WRC round would want to gain maximum exposure on a regular, annual basis, not every second year with the risk of losing the impetus that an annual event would generate.

Admittedly, the FIA are in a no-win situation. They are loathe to throw out traditional, established events (imagine the furore if the sometimes-underperforming Monte Carlo Rally was to be removed from the calendar!) but cannot ignore the applications from other cashed-up countries desperate to join the calendar and who may serve up events that are better in a number of ways than some traditional rounds and who may be closer to the world rallying hub, Europe.

What’s the answer? There will be no perfect solution that fits the ‘one size fits all’ criteria. Even a 2-level championship would not work effectively, nor would an enlarged championship, purely from an economic point of view. Manufactures simply could not afford the added expense. While manufacturers and key players in the sport complain about the complexities of participating in today’s 16 round series, talk of reducing the number of events strikes a sympathetic chord with the major players. Trouble is, while existing events have a proven track record, established over time, the noisy hordes of potential applicants beating on the FIA’s door won’t go away any time soon.

This dilemma is nothing new – there have been few occasions in recent history when calendar problems weren’t an issue. So perhaps the WRC is a victim of its own popularity and now has to face the task of fitting everyone onto the gravy train. Expect to hear a lot more about ‘rotation’ in the coming months and years.

  • What do you think? Send an email to news@rallysportmag.com.au and tells us your thoughts on the WRC calendar, and which way the FIA should go.

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