Next year’s 13-round World Rally Championship calendar will be revealed at the beginning of September, DirtFish has learned.
There will be no trip to the USA or Saudi Arabia, but potentially returns to either Poland or Argentina. Poland is understood to be the most likely option.
Of the 2023 events, Monte Carlo, Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Sardinia, Kenya, Finland (which recently signed an extension to 2026), Greece, Chile, Central European Rally and Japan are all set to remain.
México could keep its place on the calendar but it appears increasingly unlikely, while Latvia has long been confirmed as a replacement for Estonia.
WRC Promoter had been working towards a 14-event schedule for 2024, but event director Simon Larkin has cited the need to bring more Rally1 cars into the championship as the reason for sticking with 13.
“Our plan is to stay with 13, and the reason to stay with 13 is that we believe it’s in the best interest of the championship that we, together with the manufacturers, are taking the best steps to increase the number of cars in the P1 (Priority 1 – manufacturer drivers) field,” Larkin told DirtFish.
“And that means having the best possible calendar that allows them to invest, allows us to invest as well because we are working on plans where we will also be involved in additional cars for the championship and that means having a relatively stable calendar. That’s where we are.
“Our plan is still to do it at the end of August. We’ll be ready for an announcement, we hope, September 1 or September 2, so the week before Acropolis Rally.”
Rally USA won’t be included in the WRC calendar until 2025 at the earliest.
Larkin said delaying America’s inclusion by at least 12 months is “part of our strategy”.
He explained: “We can go to the US and we can do a rally next year, but we don’t want to just go to the US and do a rally and do a sporting event. We have to go there and do a proper event that’s going to have all the bells and whistles around it.
Appetite for an Argentina return
Chile already has a multi-year agreement to be in the WRC so is locked in until 2025 at the earliest.
If Rally USA wasn’t going to make it into the 2024 calendar then México had looked set to retain its slot, but it now appears that if the WRC is to have two rallies in the Americas that it’ll head back to Argentina instead.
Larkin confirmed that “it’s still a possibility to have two events in the Americas [next year], absolutely yes” but when asked if that meant México or Argentina, he spoke only about Argentina.
“That would always be our intention, whether that’s next year or whenever, to pair Chile and Argentina,” he said.
“Everyone wants to see the return of Argentina for sure [but] it has to be done in the right conditions.
“There are some challenges with the government at the moment, the economy’s not great and they’ve just gone through a whole bunch of elections there. But like we did in 2019 the logistical synergy of pairing Argentina and Chile is fantastic.
“It worked really well in 2019 and we foresee that for the future. There’s challenges, so we want to do it right.”
Poland a prime candidate
Rally Poland hasn’t been on the WRC schedule since 2017, but looks to be in a prime position for a return next season – potentially meaning three fast gravel rallies in the 2024 calendar.
But Poland’s potential addition wouldn’t eject it from the ERC which it has been a round of since 2018.
“The return of Poland to the World Rally Championship has always been a target of ours for the last couple of years,” Larkin said.
“If we can do it next year we think it’s an opportunity we should embrace. If not, our target was always 2025. And to answer from Iain [Campbell ERC championship manager]’s point-of-view, if Poland came into the WRC it doesn’t mean Poland wouldn’t be in the ERC.
“It’s a critical market. Look at the number of competitors we have, look at the audience, the events are very, very well run, the knowledge of the sport in Poland is exceptional, we have our new TV partner Motovisia there which takes everything that we’ve got and is getting extensively high numbers of audience.
“It’s a great market for everyone. M-Sport Poland is based there. We’ve got Miko Marczyk, we’ve got Kajto [Kajetanowicz], it’s an interesting market for everyone.
“The event there, putting aside the safety challenges of the last year [in WRC], was always a huge event and we still see it with ERC.”
Rally Poland was given a yellow card from the FIA in 2015 following spectator control problems and there were some major safety concerns in 2017 too, including reports of a fire truck entering a live stage in the wrong direction and spectators ignoring marshals and standing too close to the action.
But Larkin is confident this is no longer a concern.
“Everything has moved on since then,” he said.
“The rally watch program that we work with the FIA on with, Nicolas Klinger [provides] all the procedures and policies. The PZM, Polish motorsport federation, have done an exceptional job of improving every part of their event management and safety management over the years in ERC, and that ERC event has been run to the highest standards in the ERC, no question.”
Campbell added: “The safety delegate report on both years we’ve been there has said that the safety manual has been the highest standard one, and should be used as the template for all of our events.”
Safari could return to Easter date
Traditionally the Safari Rally was always held after Monte Carlo and Sweden on Easter weekend, but has been a summer rally in the WRC ever since 2001.
But as part of the local Kenyan championship it has run in early spring since then, and there’s potential for the Safari to move forward in the calendar next year.
Larkin: “We’ve never shied away, and nor has the minister, even the president at this year’s Safari Kenya to say that the Easter-ish time of the year is the old school, traditional time and it’s something that we’re looking at, whether that’s for next year or the future, to absolutely move it back to that Easter weekend is an ambition, yes.
“It’s being considered.”
Expected 2024 WRC calendar
Monte Carlo Rally
Safari Rally Kenya
Rally of Portugal
Rally Italy Sardinia
Acropolis Rally Greece
Central European Rally