How Central European Rally was born

The idea didn't come about in the most conventional of settings


It’s always fun to imagine that not all business ideas were born in the boardroom, isn’t it?

Sure, there’s a great degree of logic and sense to formulating new plans and strategies around the table in an organized meeting – glasses of water in hand and sandwich platters in the corner.

But sometimes the best ideas come in far more casual and unlikely circumstances.

Like, say, in a hotel lobby. At Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Central European Rally will break new ground in next year’s World Rally Championship as it becomes the first tri-nation event in WRC history.


Rally Sweden has straddled into Norway, the Monte Carlo Rally always heads into neighboring France and when Rally GB ran, it regularly crossed borders within the UK. But Central European Rally is the very first rally to be organized by three separate ASNs: Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Clearly, somebody needed to have a lightbulb moment to contemplate such a concept. As it happened, it was two people in a rather glamorous, yet relaxed, setting.

Rally Germany didn’t have the capital behind it to return to the WRC on its own, and the Czech Republic had never hosted a round before. And, well, Austrian roads are gorgeous aren’t they.

“During the long history of Rally Deutschland which started in 2002, ADAC was always operating with partners,” explained ADAC sports president, Dr Gerd Ennser.

“During that time it was mainly big sponsors or ADAC regional clubs. Then after the COVID break in 2020 and 2021 we started again to look for partners and it turned out that things changed, sometimes it was really difficult to get big sponsors.

“As you know in Germany there is no financial support from government. We talked to ADAC regional clubs which supported us before and we learned it would be a bit difficult.

“We started talks with our European neighbors, with Belgium, with France and at the same time I had a meeting with Jan [Stovicek, Autoklub of Czech Republic president], I guess you remember,” Ennser said, referencing Stovicek who was also at the rally’s press conference on Monday.

“We were sitting during the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain in the hotel lobby, and we just talked about the idea to have a rally together in Central Europe and then it happened quite quickly that we decided ‘yes we can do it’ to put together the Czech rally enthusiasm with German organization and brilliant stages they have in Austria.

“We took the idea to FIA and the WRC Promoter and both FIA and the promoter found it a very good idea, they supported us, they pushed us to really have a deal with the three countries together and this is what we did.

“It took us, in the end, about three months to put everything together and here we are.”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But there’s been an awful lot of effort invested to get the event to this stage.

“I must say that this is really a moment of history in Czech motorsport” added Stovicek.

“Generations of rally fans have been dreaming for decades about this opportunity to have a WRC event in our country, so we are sure this is the best day for them this year and it will be next year the best day when the rally will take place, because this is the biggest news and the biggest gift they can have.

“I’m very glad this is happening and I must also say from the FIA perspective, I have to say this as a member of the World Motorsport Council, this is also an historical moment because it is for the first time a WRC event is a result of cooperation between three countries, three ASNs.


“This has been also underlined by the president of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who accentuated the importance of that because close border cooperation is a new direction we should follow and I believe this can bring more success to events in the future.

“I am glad especially we can work closer with Dr Ennser, we were working for many years in the FIA International Court of Appeal, we are both lawyers, so we have a similar way of thinking and I’m glad that we found good points of cooperation with Professor Hertz and I’m glad we can do this together.

“I believe this will be a festival of motorsport, it will be a big day for our sport.”

And who’d have thought it rally fans, we have Formula 1 to thank for it.

Words:Luke Barry