Rally GB among WRC events under threat from possible China return

The World Rally Championship has been warned against emulating Formula 1's pursuit of new markets over heritage, with European events including Rally GB threatened by moves to return to China

Rally GB among WRC events under threat from possible China return

WRC Promoter's Oliver Ciesla said GB was one of four current rounds that will have to fight for a 2016 calendar place.

"We have a clear mandate from the FIA, from the manufacturers that we want to go global with the calendar and China is one of the first prospects to do that," he told AUTOSPORT.

"We have nine rallies [under agreement] and we are in the position that we have more events than we have capacity.

"We don't really have a process to deal with this, so we have to see how we handle it.

"France, Germany, Britain and Portugal all want to be on the calendar, but we think China has to come in and, clearly, there is not the budget to be running with 14 rounds, so something has to change."

Rally GB chief Ben Taylor said the event deserved to stay due to both its heritage and the efforts made to revive its fortunes in recent years.

"I can understand the desire to expand the championship to new markets, but the promoter must not neglect the heartland of this sport," he said.

"You only have to look at F1 to see that moving to new markets in search of new consumers or hefty sanction fees may be good for a business model, but risks losing the soul of the sport and the character of the events.

"We have a strong and loyal fan base in the UK, we have a long-standing motorsport infrastructure, we take safety and organisational standards incredibly seriously and commercially we are a key market for the car manufacturers.

"Wales Rally GB has been in the world championship since its inception, but we certainly don't presume that we have a divine right to host a WRC round.

"We have worked very hard in the past couple of years to turn Wales Rally GB into a quality event. I think people now recognise that we have an event that absolutely deserves to be on the calendar."

Ciesla said confirmation that Rally GB had renewed its partnership with Wales would help its cause.

"If there is deal a then we would be happy to have them as a candidate," he said.

"We will talk to the MSA and see if we can include them in the proposed calendar that goes forward to the World Motor Sport Council."

WRC manufacturers are keen for the series to return to China for the first time this century, and Ciesla said the chances were growing.

"We are progressing well. I'm still not in a position to be able to proceed with the 2016 entry, but I see no reason not to be optimistic that we will see China in the very near future."

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