Ireland’s hopes of hosting World Rally Championship stage in coming years scuppered

Republic’s Sports Minister requests more time to evaluate bid

The World Rally Championship last visited Ireland in 2009

Ireland will not get the opportunity to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship from 2025 onwards after the country’s Sports Minister indicated his Department needed more time to evaluate the bid.

Thomas Byrne TD wrote to those behind the Rally Ireland bid on Monday of this week to explain his officials required “at least six months” to complete independent economic assessments and analysis of the proposal, which would have cost the Irish taxpayer around €15 million had it been successful.

Motorsport Ireland President Aiden Harper has been spearheading efforts to secure the funding – and rights – to host an Irish round, saying the investment would have yielded a 300 million Euro return.

Harper initially set a March deadline for an answer, before the WRC Promoter agreed to grant a two-week extension when no feedback had been received from Minister Byrne or his department.

To learn on the last day of the extension that an answer could not be given until October was “very frustrating”, said Harper who, at the beginning of January, announced that Waterford, Limerick, and Kerry would alternate as host locations if the proposed World Rally Championship could be pulled off.

Motorsport Ireland president Aiden Harper launches the governing body's new strategic plan
Motorsport Ireland president Aiden Harper: "“I am saddened that it has come to this but unfortunately, we are left with no option.”

“I am saddened that it has come to this but unfortunately, we are left with no option,” said Harper.

“We always stated the FIA World Rally Championship could only come to Ireland with the financial support of Government, while always being aware that the funding may not be forthcoming. It is a great shame to have to hand this great opportunity – and the economic benefit it would bring – over to another awaiting country.

“In January of this year, Motorsport Ireland announced the three regions – Kerry, Limerick and the South East – that would host the events should funding be secured. Non-inclusion in 2025 is in no way any reflection on any of those areas,” he continued.

“The work that has been put in by them has been incredible and I thank them for that. I would like to thank the WRC Promoter GmbH, especially Simon Larkin, for all his assistance throughout this process and hopefully we will be in a position to revisit this magnificent opportunity in the future.

“For now, we will continue as always to deliver our motorsport calendar here in Ireland, to the highest standards, across all our disciplines.”

There were hopes rallying’s top tier would return to the Emerald Isle for the first time since 2009 when it last visited these parts. On that occasion, nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb emerged victorious, adding that success to the victory he chalked up two years earlier on the same event which ran on both sides of the border.