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WRC Rally UK 2024 bid deadline extended

The World Rally Championship is willing to give organisers behind the United Kingdom’s bid for a 2024 round until the end of May to meet the necessary requirements.

Kris Meeke, Sebastian Marshall, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Photo by: Toyota Racing

The UK has become a backbone of rallying’s top flight, appearing on the inaugural calendar in 1973 and holding a spot on the schedule until 2019 courtesy of Rally GB, formerly known as the RAC Rally.

However, the event dropped off the calendar in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has failed to return.

PLUS: How Evans ended his WRC drought in sombre Rally Croatia 

A bid fronted by promoter Bobby Willis to bring the WRC back to the UK in Northern Ireland has made three attempts to join the calendar - in 2021, 2022 and 2023 - but was unable to secure the necessary funding, believed to be approximately £3 million.

In February the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Motorsport, an informal group of members of UK parliament, met with senior representatives of the WRC, Motorsport UK, the event promoter, Tourism Northern Ireland and Events Northern Ireland to revive the bid, which resulted in the end of April being set as a deadline to secure the required funding for an event next year.

This deadline has now been pushed back a further month.

“Every second day I’m talking to Bobby Willis and it is not over yet,” WRC event director Simon Larkin told Autosport.

“There is still a bit more time to go. The government in Northern Ireland is now starting to maybe be a bit more effective following the new Brexit agreement.

“It is unfortunate to say but the reality is Craig Breen’s death has awakened the entire island of Ireland about the sport's legacy a bit more, and even its size and scope there.

“Rallying in Ireland both sides of the border, they do massive events every couple of weeks with 150 cars. We are still working very strongly and hard as we can.”

Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers admits there are funding hurdles to overcome but says the organisation won’t “stop” until it can secure a WRC round back in the UK.

“The problem we have got there is we have the will of the politicians and the civil servants in Tourism Northern Ireland, but Stormont [Northern Irish government] is not sitting so there isn’t any body that can approve this kind of activity,” Chambers told Autosport.

Elfyn Evans (GB), M-Sport Ford WRT, Ford Fiesta WRC 2019

Elfyn Evans (GB), M-Sport Ford WRT, Ford Fiesta WRC 2019

Photo by: McKlein / McMaster

“There are a lot of people, like MPs James Sutherland and Ian Paisley, pushing really hard but it is massively frustrating that we can’t get this one across the line.

“We are not stopping there, we are looking at all the home nations, revisiting Wales and having conversations in Scotland and looking at the North of England. We won’t stop. There is no question that it is massive unfinished business for us to get the WRC back.

“We have got really positive support from Andrew Wheatley at the FIA and the same with Simon Larkin at WRC Promoter. There is a huge amount of will and momentum about it but we just need a million quid.”

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While Northern Ireland is the main focus for a possible UK round next year, the WRC has confirmed that preliminary talks have been held with Ireland, which last held a WRC round in 2009.

“Things are ongoing with Northern Ireland but with Ireland for the future as well,” added Larkin.

“We have had fairly early and basic discussions with Ireland as well. We have seen the commitment from Motorsport Ireland. In WRC Juniors there are two crews there and there would have been two WRC2 supported cars in Croatia.

“The investment of John Coyne [Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy founder] cannot be underestimated at all. It's impressive and it is a reflection of the prominence of rallying in Ireland.

“At the moment all of our focus is on Northern Ireland for 2024 but that doesn’t mean we are not looking at a longer term presence on the Island for years to come.”

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