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FIA encouraged by WRC Rally USA demonstration

Rally USA’s demonstration event has been deemed a success with the FIA encouraged by feedback received as the rally stepped up its bid to join the 2024 World Rally Championship.

Pierre-Louis Loubet, Nicolas Gilsoul, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

The USA has emerged as a contender to join the WRC schedule for the first time since the Olympus Rally in 1988.

A brand new event is being planned in Chattanooga in southeast Tennessee, utilising gravel roads located in in the Cherokee National Forest and around the Ocoee River region in Polk County.

The planning committee for the project features an experienced group of rally competitors and organisers, and has the support of the American Rally Association (ARA), Chattanooga Tourism, the State of Tennessee, regional governments, and private sponsors.

Last month the organisers held a rally demonstration to showcase the discipline and test a couple of its proposed stages, ahead of a full candidate rally expected to take place in September, which will determine if it will join the 2024 WRC calendar.   

The demonstration included a traditional ceremonial start while seven crews tackled a 3-mile and 10-mile pair of stages which are being proposed for the event. 

World Rally Championship 1982 runner-up and FIA WRC safety delegate Michele Mouton was in attendance to assess the stages.

“We have had very positive feedback from the local authority,” said FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley when asked about the Rally USA demonstration by Motorsport.com.

“I think they [the organisers] wanted to assess a number of issues and to understand how it could work in this particular region. 

“Michele [Mouton] was out looking at stages to understand from a preliminary perspective to understand what work has to be done to get to the level they need to be. 

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

“I think they have got some work to do moving forward but it is great there is this proactive opportunity. The commitment they have made to date is significant and the next step is another big jump. 

“From what we have seen so far I think it could be a really positive addition to the championship with challenging stages and great conditions. 

“The location they are proposing is right in the heart of where manufacturers are investing in automotive and Pirelli has a plant in the region. All the pieces are there it is now just a question of collecting them all together.”

WRC event director Simon Larkin says the event remains in contention for a possible inclusion next year, and is hopeful the organisers can build on a successful demo.    

“It was a great success, it prompted a lot of local and regional interest but we need that now to translate more concretely into more commitments and investment which is what we are working on,” Larkin told Motorsport.com. 

“We will still plan for a likely test event in September and we will make a decision before then as to whether that test event can be considered for 2024.”

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