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Ireland’s bid to rejoin the WRC in 2025 halted

Ireland will be absent from the 2025 World Rally Championship calendar after organisers were unable to secure the required government funding to put on the event.

Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroen Total WRT, Citroen C4 WRC

Ireland had tabled a bid to secure a three-year contract to host the WRC, beginning from 2025, which planned to bring the championship back to the country for the first time since 2009.

Motorsport Ireland announced in January a plan to rotate the rally through three locations; Waterford, Kerry and Limerick, across the three-year deal, should it secure the contract.

While the concept was approved by WRC Promoter, which met with Motorsport Ireland President Aidan Harper in February to discuss Ireland’s WRC’s plans, the bid hinged on the event securing €15 million from the Irish government in funding to spread across the three-year contract. Motorsport Ireland estimated that the rally would generate €300 million for the local economy.

There was hope that the funding grant would be given the green light, but the application has not been successful within the timeframe required.

“It is with deep regret that Motorsport Ireland today confirms that Ireland is no longer being considered to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2025,” read a statement from Motorsport Ireland.

“On Monday, 15 April, Motorsport Ireland finally received confirmation from Minister Byrne, Minister of State for Sport, Physical Education and the Gaeltacht, that his Department would need “at least six months” to undertake further independent economic assessments and analysis of our proposal.

“The closing date for the bidding process with WRC Promoter GmbH was the end of Q1 this year, a date that Motorsport Ireland made both Minister Byrne and the Major Sports Events Unit aware of from the outset. Due to having received no update from the Department by the Q1 deadline, Motorsport Ireland requested, and was granted, an extension of a fortnight from the promoter.

Photo by: Sutton Images

“Motorsport Ireland first approached the Government back in early 2023 and in June of that year had a fruitful meeting with Minister Thomas Byrne and his colleagues where we presented how we can showcase Ireland on the world stage by bringing the World Rally Championship to Ireland for a three-year period.

"In the meeting, Motorsport Ireland were complimented by Minister Byrne that we were doing the right thing by coming good and early with respect to a funding request for a 2025 event. After the meeting, we were referred to the Major Sports Events Unit whom we engaged with and submitted a full event screening application on 6 October 2023.

“To date, Motorsport Ireland have received no questions or feedback on any of the documents we submitted, despite multiple communications to the Department asking if additional information was required. To learn on the last day of our extension from the promoter that Minister Byrne’s Department now require another six months to undertake further independent assessments and analysis is very frustrating. 

“From the beginning, Motorsport Ireland has been very clear that March 2024 was the cutoff for receiving acknowledgment if we were successful or not in our request for funding. This deadline wasn’t chosen by Motorsport Ireland, this was an operational deadline set by the World Rally Championship promoter. The demand for the limited number of slots in the WRC calendar is running at an all-time high and the promoter is in a position to choose host countries that are able to commit and thus benefit from a multi-year major event strategy.

“The promoter cutoff date must be respected so that they can plan their 2025-2027 calendar strategy. This Q1 deadline was flagged in Motorsport Ireland’s event screening application and in all subsequent communications to the Department. We are extremely thankful to WRC Promoter GmbH for granting us an extension to try and make inclusion for 2025 possible but yesterday’s response from Minister Byrne confirms it cannot happen.

“Motorsport Ireland notes and appreciates Minister Byrne’s commitment to undertaking the necessary assessments and analysis required and will continue to communicate with him, his Department and WRC Promoter GmbH to see if alternative hosting years are possible beyond 2025.”

The WRC is planning to submit an expanded 14-round calendar for next year. While Ireland’s bid to join the series has been unsuccessful for next year, there will be at least one new event on the bill.

Last month it was announced that Spain will rejoin the WRC following confirmation that Rally Islas Canarias will be 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. WRC event director Simon Larkin travelled to Paraguay to meet the nation’s president Santiago Pena to discuss the country’s WRC bid.    

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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