M-Sport Ford driver Craig Breen has rallied behind the organizer of the failed bid from Northern Ireland to host a round of the World Rally Championship, saying its failure to land a place on the calendar this year “doesn’t make any sense”.
There has been no British-based round of the world championship since Wales last hosted Rally GB in 2019, as a mixture of COVID-19 disruption and funding issues brought the United Kingdom’s time on the WRC calendar to an end.
Hopes for a resurrection of a UK-based round were pinned on a bid from Northern Ireland and a to be confirmed calendar slot was left empty on August 18-21 to facilitate it.
But when government funding did not arrive in sufficient time for Motorsport UK to underwrite the event, discussions to bring Rally NI to the WRC were pushed back to a potential 2023 event instead.
“That was a big blow, to be fair,” Breen told DirtFish.
“I just feel so sorry for Bobby [Willis, rally promoter] and everyone involved, because they’ve put their whole heart and soul into it for how many years of this now.
“And OK, they haven’t given up yet for next year, I don’t know what’s been the stumbling block but it doesn’t make any sense.
“The rally deserves to be there, it would be such a welcome addition to the championship.
“And OK, I know I’m biased, and I know for whatever reason we like the roads, but I think the championship will be so much better if we had a rally like that there.
“I’ve told Bobby from day one whatever I can do, I’ll always drum away behind it. I think myself and Elfyn [Evans] definitely want the rally to happen, we both know what it’s like to rally there.
“In August time as well, potentially you could have a dry rally. Even better again. I think it will be absolutely amazing, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
While Breen was understandably keen to have Northern Ireland on the calendar, he also expressed regret that Wales would no longer host a WRC event either.
“It is strange. It’s even strange not to have been in the Welsh forests since 2019. Jeez, it’s a long time ago now when you think about it.
“It’s strange, especially when it’s always been such a popular event for the year in GB and everything. It’s sad that we don’t go back there.”
Breen isn’t the only one sad to see the UK missing out on a 2022 calendar slot.
Robert Reid, former co-driver of Richard Burns and the recently elected FIA deputy president sport, described Rally GB as “something very dear to me” and expressed confidence that WRC Promoter would continue to push for a 2023 round in his home country.
“It’s disappointing that the event that was trying to be put together in Northern Ireland didn’t happen,” said Reid.
“The Promoter is very clear that they would be very supportive of an event in the UK, so the UK needs to look and see how they can bring forward a candidate that is suitable for inclusion to the calendar.
“Personally, I think the UK is one of the countries that is the home of motorsport and it would be good to see an event back there again.”