Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Ireland’s World bid still in the melting pot

There will be no decision on Rally Ireland's possible inclusion in the 2011 World championship until early next year.

A draft calendar had been expected to be presented to motorsport's World Council meeting early next month by the championship's global promoter but new FIA president Jean Todt has asked for extra time to review the proposals.

The 2011 calendar is seen as a pivotal part of the sport's re-development under International Sportsworld Communicators, the global promoter appointed to take charge from January 1, 2010.

Under the present two-year rotational system Rally Ireland is due to return to the series in 2011 but the new 15-round calendar is expected to outline ISC's vision for the future, including a blend of classic rallies such as Rally Finland and new emerging markets like Abu Dhabi. Rally Ireland director John Naylor admits the situation is “very frustrating”.

“We have had strong indications from ISC that they want to include Rally Ireland but their proposed calendar is subject to World Council approval and since the election of Jean Todt as president in October we have had no news.

“Some say no news is good news but in this case no news is just that — no news.”

As Motorsport Ireland president, Naylor was vocal in support of Ari Vatanen, Todt’s rival for the FIA presidency, and there is a belief that the new regime may not look kindly on an Irish event.

Naylor was in Scotland at the weekend for the Rally of Scotland, final round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and met with IRC officials. So do, I understand, did representatives from the Killarney-based Rally of the Lakes. The IRC has grown rapidly in popularity and importance and now has a huge following in Ireland, thanks in part to the success of Kris Meeke.

But it is also being seen as a more attractive proposition than the World championship, so much so that the organisers of the most iconic of all rallies, Monte Carlo, have refused to return to the WRC next year.

It had been left out of this year's championship and replaced by Rally Ireland under the rotational system but having then switched to the IRC, the Monaco AC snubbed the FIA by rejecting a place in the 2010 WRC, preferring to continue in the IRC which offers greater freedom to run the event according to its traditions.

Promoters ISC are desperate to have Monte Carlo back as part of their World championship re-building programme but so far the Monaco team have been unbending — which may help to explain the delay in announcing the 2011 calendar.

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