Azores Rally has lost its place on the European Rally Championship calendar for 2023 in the first deliberate calendar shift since WRC Promoter’s takeover.
Azores has been a long-running fixture in European rallying, appearing in the continental calendar during two separate stints from 1992-2003 and then again from 2013 until now, having been part of Eurosport’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge between 2009-2012.
But its place on the calendar has been lost, the rally organizer confirmed, having not been offered a place on the 2023 billing.
“The FIA European Rally Championship promoter has informed the Azores Rallye Organising Committee that the race is not part of its plans for the 2023 season,” read a statement from the Azores organizer.
“The justification given by the WRC Promoter was that their intention is to make the championship more central, to reduce the cost to the teams.
“Despite the efforts of the Azores Rallye Organising Committee to ensure free sea and air transportation for the teams, the teams still consider that the tie-up is too long when compared to other races of the championship, according to the promoter.
“We deeply regret this decision, which we did not foresee, since all federative entities praised the event, including the WRC Promoter, who presented to the Azores Rallye Organising Committee a proposal to continue the rally in 2023 and 2024, which was being negotiated.
“We will continue to work on next year’s edition, the 57th, in order to guarantee, together with our partners, an event with the quality that it is renowned for, hoping, in the future, to once again be part of the top European rally competition.”
WRC Promoter took the reins of the European championship from Eurosport Events in late 2021 and had kept the calendar the same, in effect making 2022 a carryover season.
Its only calendar change thus far had been replacing Rally Hungary with Rally Spain but this was a changed forced on them legislatively, rather than a deliberate choice.
Hungary was intended to be this year’s season finale but received a blue card from the FIA for repeated safety concerns, so was banned from hosting the ERC this year. Rally Spain was drafted in to take its place as the season finale.
Should that blue card be rescinded after its 2022 edition in November, Hungary is expected to return to the ERC schedule, having already signed a letter of intent with the Promoter to return.
DirtFish sources suggest an ERC calendar announcement may arrive as soon as next week.