New Zealand is set to return to the World Rally Championship for the first time in a decade, having been given a firm place on the latest version of the 2022 WRC calendar.
Nine of the 13 events had already been confirmed back in July but the latest update confirms that New Zealand, Croatia and Finland will join the already announced Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Estonia, Greece, Spain and Japan on the schedule.
One spot on the calendar remains a ‘TBC’ but with an August date, and DirtFish understands that could be filled by Rally Northern Ireland.
It’s understood that there remains a strong desire from both WRC Promoter and Belfast for a British round of the WRC to return and the original penciled date for Rally NI was in mid-August.
The return of New Zealand – for the first time since 2012 – means the WRC will be held on four different continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania) for its new hybrid Rally1 era, but there will be no visit to the Americas with none of Mexico, Chile or Argentina on the calendar.
The calendar was approved at an FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Friday, with a note that “the WMSC pledged that as soon as the situation eases, the FIA World Rally Championship calendar must return to a more global presence beyond Europe” to reflect the lack of the Americas in the 2022 schedule.
“Next year marks the WRC’s 50th season and we have a calendar to match,” said WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel.
“We’re delighted to welcome back New Zealand, a rally which first appeared in 1977. Its gravel roads are a drivers’ delight and although our plans to return in 2020 were unfortunately derailed by COVID-19, it’s fantastic we can now push through with those.
“The pandemic sadly brought the globe to its knees but as the world recovers, so too does the WRC.
“We previously outlined our strategy for an equal spread of rallies between Europe and long-haul destinations and the 2022 calendar is a significant step towards that goal.”
Of the 12 confirmed events, nine of them are European with three flyaways spread across the season.
The WRC hasn’t visited Asia for Rally Japan since 2010 but has intended to for the last two seasons only for COVID-19 to enforce new plans.
WRC 2022 calendar:
Monte Carlo Rally (January 20-23)
Rally Sweden (February 24-27)
Croatia Rally (April 21-24)
Rally Portugal (May 19-22)
Rally Italy (June 2-5)
Safari Rally Kenya (June 23-26)
Rally Estonia (July 14-17)
Rally Finland (August 4-7)
TBC (August 18-21)
Acropolis Rally (September 8-11)
Rally New Zealand (September 29-October 2)
Rally Spain (October 20-23)
Rally Japan (November 10-13)