Rally analysis: It's not just Formula 1 losing its classic events

The Safari was the first to go. Then Sanremo, Corsica, Acropolis and New Zealand

Rally analysis: It's not just Formula 1 losing its classic events

Now Ireland's teetering. While the plight of the German Grand Prix raised eyebrows in the world of Formula 1, the world of rallying is well used to history and heritage being cast aside in favour of funding and fiscal security.

The Safari remains the biggest loss to the World Rally Championship. The open-road race through Kenya had evolved down the years, but even in its chopped down, centralised service format of 2002, it still wasn't commercially viable.

Well aware of its value to the WRC in terms of tradition, drama, backdrop and sub-plot to the series, then-championship-promoter David Richards bankrolled the Nairobi-based event for its final season at the highest level. It couldn't go on.

Former glory in some part was partially restored to the Safari in 2007 by Eurosport's made-for-telly Intercontinental Rally Challenge series, but still the financial model made no sense.

Just last weekend, this former giant - an event where victory was reckoned to be as worthwhile as the world championship itself - limped on as a round of the Kenyan Rally Championship. The winner? Who was it that followed in the footsteps of such Safari greats as Shekhar Mehta (pictured) and Bjorn Waldegaard?

Jaspreet Chatthe.


When the WRC shrunk from 16 to 13 rallies, supply outstripped demand and only the strongest survived.

Already burdened with money worries, Sanremo actually lost favour when DR decreed that asphalt rallying didn't work on television.

So, instead of the beautiful seaside town at the foot of the Ligurian Alps, the WRC headed for Sardinia. And has been trying to get back to the mainland ever since.

Corsica is, of course, back this year, helping to dig the French Federation out of a significant hole when Alsace couldn't afford its place at the WRC table.

It's costing the FFSA a significant chunk of cash to take the WRC back to the island. But without the financial safety net of the governing body, the Tour de Corse could be lost again next year.

New Zealand tried rotating with Australia (a country forced to ship its round 2500 miles from coast to coast to stay safe) and is building a head of steam for another WRC shot next season, but fears persist that the best roads in the world have been lost to world rallying's elite forever. No backer means no long white clouds.

It's the same story for the Acropolis; Greece's dire domestic financial position has been well documented and its world rally couldn't escape the downturn.

And now the Circuit of Ireland, the world's third oldest rally is facing an uncertain future - and not for the first time.

Event director Bobby Willis has worked tirelessly to return the Circuit to the European Rally Championship, but the Willis wallet has been emptied in the process.

And nothing short of a big-time budgetary commitment from the Northern Irish Government will be enough to keep the Titanic Quarter-based event afloat.

If that doesn't come, then the Circuit will be lost for good. Or, possibly worse still, it will follow its fellow Easter weekend event - the Safari - down the road to obscurity.

Throughout motorsport, money talks. And it's louder than ever in rallying.

Circuit of Ireland ERC: Breen secures emotional victory in Belfast
Previous article

Circuit of Ireland ERC: Breen secures emotional victory in Belfast

Next article

ERC: Skoda's Freddy Loix wins 10th Ypres as Breen, Bouffier falter

ERC: Skoda's Freddy Loix wins 10th Ypres as Breen, Bouffier falter
Ireland deserves a WRC round Plus

Ireland deserves a WRC round

Drivers are in accordance: Ireland should be in the World Rally Championship. DAVID EVANS followed the Circuit of Ireland and was left with no doubt that the drivers are right

Apr 23, 2014
Kubica's rally to recovery Plus

Kubica's rally to recovery

Robert Kubica's rally speed is obviously there - in abundance - but he's got to stop crashing. Charles Bradley went to the Azores to get the lowdown on the ex-F1 star's comeback trail

May 3, 2013
Why Kubica can win on ERC debut Plus

Why Kubica can win on ERC debut

Former GP winner Robert Kubica makes his international comeback this week in the Canaries Rally. And David Evans reckons he'll win aboard a Citroen DS3 RRC

Mar 21, 2013
Rallying's new era keeps the best of the old Plus

Rallying's new era keeps the best of the old

As the IRC to ERC transformation takes effect in Austria, David Evans is excited that the IRC's promotional strengths will carry over - but still wishes the WRC could get some of that magic

Jan 3, 2013
Farewell IRC, long live ERC Plus

Farewell IRC, long live ERC

As the Intercontinental Rally Challenge prepares for its swansong in Cyprus, David Evans recalls the shortlived series' heyday - and looks ahead to its European successor

Nov 1, 2012
The 2011 IRC season review Plus

The 2011 IRC season review

The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season

Nov 22, 2011
Who to watch in the Monte Carlo Rally Plus

Who to watch in the Monte Carlo Rally

This year is the Monte Carlo Rally's centenary and, just as in recent years, there's no shortage of World Rally Championship stars turning up to give the IRC regulars a run for their money

Jan 18, 2011
The top 10 IRC drivers of 2010 Plus

The top 10 IRC drivers of 2010

The competition didn't run as deep as it might have, but there was plenty of fight at the front with six of our top 10 winning rallies during the season. Matt Beer puts them in order

Nov 29, 2010