WRC 2025 calendar puzzle is falling into place

There will be no WRC Rally Ireland in 2025 but what more do we know about next year's schedule?


The pieces of the 2025 World Rally Championship calendar are falling into place, with WRC Promoter promising that the full schedule will be published by “late June or July”.

As we explained last month, a number of events are yet to secure their place but, following last weekend’s Croatia Rally, we now know more on which nations are in and which are out.

However, while the status of some events was confirmed, the future of the Zagreb-based event itself still hangs in the balance.

According to WRC event director Simon Larkin, demand for a place in the WRC is higher than ever and, with so many nations looking to get a piece of the action, he has provided an insight into what can make the difference between a successful bid and an unsuccessful one.

Politics key to Croatia return

It was politics that eventually ended hopes of a round on Irish soil in 2025, with the Irish government requesting an additional six months to assess the financial proposal for the rally. Larkin admitted that there was disappointment with the outcome of the Rally Ireland bid, but was also supportive of the plight of the organizers.

“I think the change of Prime Minister there in Ireland didn’t help with timelines,” he says. “It just happened at exactly the wrong time. Because what minister would take such a unilateral decision while changing leadership? I stand by the process that Motorsport Ireland put in place for consultation with the ministry.”

The political landscape is also influencing the situation in Croatia, but it could be less of a barrier for a return in 2025, as Larkin explains: “Croatia we’re working on for a renewal. We all know because a lot of us were here, Wednesday was election day. The same government has essentially held power again. We hope for a quick process there.”

Less certain is just where next year’s Croatia Rally would be held. Currently, the event is based around Zagreb, but there is talk that it could move closer to the coast to take advantage of the stunning backdrop enjoyed for part of Saturday’s route this year.

Larkin is cautious of such a move. He said: “We’re now in the capital city, which I think from a premium point of view of whenever you’re running a major event in a country, to be in the capital city is a big deal. Because you’re naturally near the biggest population center.

“What we want to be convinced is that if we move to the coast, that the sport or WRC or Rally Croatia isn’t judged to be taking a compromise on its location: that we’re not down-selling ourselves.


Croatia may seek to take its rally further from the capital, to make more of its scenery

“This is a highly attended event. We don’t want to create a position whereby spectators can’t find hotels, can’t find this, can’t find that. Or that the roads are a compromise compared to what we get around here. That’s a better service park. Better entertainment, better activations.”

Larkin also states the importance of each rally bringing something unique to the championship. He says: “We’re going to have 13 or 14 events; we want all of those 13 or 14 to bring a different sporting element to themselves. And I think Croatia has done that from day one. Even the drivers are delighted with this surface because it’s very, very different and challenging.”

What we know so far

While we will have to wait to find out if the crews will be tackling those challenging Croatian roads again in 2025, we do know the situation with some other events.

Rally Islas Canarias is the newest addition to the 2025 schedule, while Sardinia and Greece also have deals in place for next season. The Central European Rally is also confirmed, with 2025 marking the final year of its three-year agreement, and no word yet on its future beyond that.

Moving further north, Rally Finland has a contract until 2026, while Rally Sweden has itself penciled onto the calendar until at least 2027. Larkin confirmed that Poland’s 2025 appearance is a one-off, while the rotation between Latvia and Estonia is set to continue. This means that Latvia will be replaced in the championship next year by a return to Estonia.

Of the events that aren’t yet confirmed, Portugal has an option to extend its stay to 2025, while it’s understood that Monte Carlo does not yet have a signed agreement. However, the regular season-opener is widely expected to return, as it remains one of the crown jewels of the rallying calendar.

That still leaves plenty of unknowns, and a lot of countries that want their names on the list. One of the most competitive regions for a spot is the Americas. While a round in the United States isn’t likely to happen before 2026, and Mexico still hasn’t reestablished itself on the calendar, there is a strong desire to add a second South American stop on the WRC global tour.

Chile’s current deal expires this year, but it could yet return in 2025, while Paraguay and Argentina are both trying to negotiate their own places on the calendar. Only two of the three South American hopefuls are likely to be successful. More clarity on the North American situation could come in Portugal next month.


Argentina hasn't featured in WRC since 2019 edition won by Thierry Neuville

Alongside all of that intrigue, the Middle East also remains on the radar, with Saudi Arabia widely believed to be the most likely destination. The largest and richest of the Gulf nations is keen to add to its global sporting portfolio, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

How to make it

There is plenty of work to be done across the whole spectrum of the WRC right now, that’s for sure. Alongside ongoing discussions around the technical regulations for 2025 and beyond, a bi-weekly working group meeting between the WC Promoter, the FIA and manufacturers is planned to discuss all matters relating to promotion. This includes a greater emphasis on storytelling, and there is no doubt that the unique nature of each WRC round should play a critical role in creating those narratives.

Just as Croatia needs to justify a move to its coast, any nation looking to get into the WRC needs to make a strong case, especially given the current demand. Larkin points out: “Demand for events has never been stronger in the history of the World Rally Championship. I have at any one time eight or nine different opportunities for the next three years on my desk.”

And he is confident in what the WRC can deliver for any potential candidate, adding: “I’m talking to countries about 2028. The value proposition that WRC gives is strong, it’s justifiable, it’s defensible, and it shows.”

That is particularly important when it comes to getting support from governments, and is one of the unique selling points of the WRC over other championships. Larkin explains: “One of the things that we as WRC do, and it’s why we get such strong government support, is that we take place in the environment of the country. We don’t take place in a circuit; we don’t take place in a stadium. So, every second of what we do is publicizing that country.

“There are a number of stakeholders in this championship who are always looking for a return on investment. And I would say we have partners, we have events and we have competitors.”

WRC Promoter is looking to strengthen the case it can make to those stakeholders, by working with a consultant to reevaluate the value proposition and provide verifiable data that backs up what the championship can offer.


No WRC event is more iconic than the Monte Carlo Rally

While it may appear that, ultimately, the key to getting a calendar slot is money, the promoter is keen to emphasize that there is far more to it than that. It looks at the whole package, from the organization of the event, to whether the bid has government backing, and even how it fits with the WRC brand.

Monte Carlo is an example where the promoter recognizes the importance of its brand for the championship, along with its long-running relationship with local broadcaster Canal+, and the benefits of reaching a large audience in France.

The same is true of other events, such as Finland and Estonia, which have strong television coverage while also being home to top-line drivers and teams. The future of Rally Japan is no-doubt influenced by Toyota’s such staunch support of the championship, while Takamoto Katsuta’s position in the team adds further strength.

Clearly, there is a lot that goes into selecting events for the limited slots available on the WRC calendar. The requirements are both sporting and financial. They must uphold the prestige of the championship, while also being sustainable.

By the summer, we’ll find out whether that balance has been achieved.