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WRC working on Croatia renewal, Poland a one-off

The World Rally Championship is hoping to secure a new deal to ensure Croatia remains on the calendar next year, while confirming that Poland’s 2024 appearance is a one-off.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Torstein Eriksen, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

Croatia is one of the most recent additions to the WRC, joining the calendar in 2021 with last weekend’s event marking its fourth edition.

The nation’s demanding asphalt roads have proved challenging for drivers while delivering exciting climaxes to rallies, with the lead changing hands on the final day in three of the four events to date.

The WRC is keen to welcome Croatia back to the schedule next year and is already working on securing a new deal.  

“We are working on a renewal,” said WRC event director Simon Larkin. “The Wednesday of the rally was election day [in Croatia] and the same government has held power, so we hope for a quick process there.”

Since joining the WRC calendar, the rally’s headquarters has been located in Zagreb, with the itinerary devised around crews leaving the capital city to take in stages before returning at the end of each day.

There has been some discussion about a possible relocation from Zagreb in favour of utilising Croatia’s famous coastline, but WRC organisers say they need to be “convinced” that such a move will benefit the event in the future. 

“One of the things that is most attractive about bringing Croatia to the WRC was to be in the capital city,” Larkin added.

“We are probably seeing a lot of compromises on the itinerary and the timing.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“We need to be convinced that moving away from the capital city will drive better value and better audience participation. They [Croatia organisers] need to sell it to us.

“Yes, we are based here in Zagreb and there are compromises on the itinerary, but I don’t think anyone who has watched this rally for the last three editions can say the roads we are using are a compromise.

“This is producing amazing sport on every level. I think this style of tarmac has provided a unique selling point for the rally.

“The Croatian coast is beautiful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should take the WRC there.”

While Croatia is in the running to secure a renewal for next year, Larkin confirmed that Poland's surprise inclusion on this year’s calendar is a “one-off” and unlikely to return next year.

It is also likely that Estonia will rejoin calendar as part of a rotation with Latvia, which has stepped up from the European Rally Championship this year.

Last month it was announced that Spain will rejoin the WRC with Rally Islas Canarias promoted from the European Rally Championship schedule to make its WRC debut.

Paraguay and Argentina are understood to be in the mix to earn a spot for next year. It is likely the championship will include a return to the Middle East with a round in Saudi Arabia an option, with an announcement expected in the near future.

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