WRC closing in on 14-round 2024 calendar

The World Rally Championship is eyeing an expanded 14-round calendar for next year with Saudi Arabia, USA and UK among the contenders vying for a spot.

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

The championship had hoped to roll out a 14-round schedule for this season, although plans to add an event in the Middle East failed to come to fruition.

However, the target to add a desert based round in Saudi Arabia remains a key goal for 2024, with plans for a test event to be held later this year.

“Our ambition is 14 events. I think we will be quite happy with 14 events for the medium-term future,” WRC event director Simon Larkin told Autosport.

“I think it works best for the teams when it comes to testing, logistics and transport. There's no point in just pushing the number of events, we are not like MotoGP or Formula 1 that can do back-to-backs. We don't want to.

“If we are going to have 14 events, each of them should be a very unique chapter of the story of the season and I think if we can get a Middle Eastern event for next year, which is the plan, I think we'd be very happy of the look and feel of each individual event. I think a desert style event is the one that we are missing.”

The 2024 calendar is already starting to take shape with Portugal announcing last weekend that it has agreed a new deal with the WRC for 2024, with an option to extend for 2025.

The gravel event joins Monte Carlo, Sweden, Acropolis, Safari, the Central European Rally, Sardinia and Chile which have contracts in place for 2024, while Finland and Japan are also expected to remain on the schedule.

Latvia has already been announced as one new addition for 2024 and is expected to replace Estonia. The only question marks concerning events currently on the calendar surround Croatia and Mexico.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

The WRC wishes to return to Croatia and is thought to be close to securing a new multi-year deal, while Mexico’s fate seem to hinge on if the USA’s bid to join the 2024 calendar is successful.

Mexico re-joined the schedule this year but is out of contract. The WRC plans for two events in the Americas next year with Chile in possession of a deal for 2024.

Plans to bring the WRC to the USA for the first time since 1988 have stepped up following a successful rally demonstration in Chattanooga, Tennessee in April - the host city for Rally USA’s bid - that has been met positively by the FIA.

A full candidate rally is expected to be held in September where a call will be made as to whether the event is ready to join the WRC in 2024.

The WRC has been working for several years to secure an event in the US, but Larkin says ensuring the event is successfully executed is critical.

“If we are going to go to the US, we just need to go with a sporting context, but with an event. It needs to be more than just turning up with the cars and running a rally," he added.

"We need to make sure we have all of the entertainment and the building blocks that’s going to entertain American fans.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“They are very different, rallying is something we are going to have to educate them on. So having more show stages as they call them there, or the super special stages just as we do in Mexico.

“We've got to make sure that we have the right model in place because the last thing we want to do is go to a place like the US and it's an event that doesn't appeal to Americans.

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“We know we have a lot of hardcore fans in America because we can see that from those who watch WRC+ (the WRC's OTT platform)and who follow social media. We will take our time to make sure we do it right.”

The UK also remains in the mix through the Rally Northern Ireland bid which has been given until the end of the month to secure the required £3 million in funding. Larkin says he is regularly in talks with UK government officials.

“We are trying to get that every effort that we can and that includes being active participants in discussions with commercial partners, so we are running that in parallel with discussions with government," he added.

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