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WRC Central Europe Rally

FIA: Central European Rally has time to address WRC driver itinerary concerns

Central European Rally organisers have six months to propose a final 2024 event itinerary should it wish to make alterations following criticism from World Rally Championship drivers, says the FIA.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The WRC welcomed an all-new concept to the championship last weekend with the inaugural running of the Central European Rally, which saw rallying’s top tier host an event in three countries for the first time.

The Central European Rally concept, which will return in 2024, comprised 18 asphalt stages held in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany.

The event was well received by the championship and teams as fans turned out in their droves to witness the action. However, organisers were forced to cancel a stage due to spectators standing in dangerous positions.

Read more: The five moments that defined Rovanpera’s second WRC title

While the rally was a success in taking the WRC to three nations of rally-mad supporters, the itinerary which included 1380 kilometres of road section [the highest of the season] to complete 310km of stages has been questioned by drivers.

Perhaps the biggest talking point was a three-and-a-half hour trip from Passau to Prague for the ceremonial start and then 11kms of super special stages, before heading back to the Passau service park. Crews then returned back to the Czech Republic for Friday’s stages.

“It is the first time here and there are things you can debrief and make better, like for sure the road sections and make a better itinerary,” said Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier.

“It is really too long and it makes no sense and honestly not fitting what we need to achieve. We try to sell commercially that we are using hybrid cars but if you make a rally that is 1600km it is not right. It has to be better.”

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak added: “The format is not better than a normal rally. We have been speaking for a long time about which direction it should go and it is worse.”

Rally winner Thierry Neuville acknowledged the itinerary concerns but admitted he was happy to drive the distance given the amount of fans that had turned out to follow the cars. He would like to see more anti-cut devices introduced next year.

“The rally was nice but the weather was shit so it made it very challenging and maybe for next year we need to put more anti-cut devices in place if the rain is coming,” said Neuville.

“There is a bit of a job to do on that side but generally I’m not against driving a lot of road actions if we see that amount of spectators. The enthusiasm of the spectators was great and the support. It was a great spectacle, so I don’t mind doing a lot of mileage.

“For sure, there are things to improve but I think it is a while since we have seen so much excitement for the event this weekend. All the other things don’t matter so much because it was like the WRC five years ago.

“There were people everywhere not just on the stages but on the road sections.”

M-Sport boss Richard Millener echoed Neuville’s thoughts but feels an overnight stay in Prague next year would alleviate any itinerary concerns. 

“I didn’t think the itinerary needs too much, to be honest,” he said.

“When I looked at it I was dreading the length of the days and scything has run on time pretty much.

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

Photo by: M-Sport

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

“I think the trip to Prague is obviously a long way but looking at we only had 11km of super special in Prague so do we need to come back to Passau service park after that?

“We could probably have had a parc ferme there and then do some stages on the way back to Passau on Friday morning which would have allowed them to have more stages down in that area. I would have probably ditched stage two and run the first stage and then had a parc ferme.” 

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Autosport understands that organisers are keen to address the event’s teething issues ahead of next year.

FIA road sport director Andrew Wheatley says the world motorsport governing body has already received a slightly amended itinerary for next year.

“The organisers are proposing an itinerary that is similar but not exactly the same,” said Wheatley. “They still have six months to propose a final itinerary.”

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