World Rally Championship's return to Ireland looking more likely

The WRC last visited Ireland in 2009
The WRC last visited Ireland in 2009 The WRC last visited Ireland in 2009

THE prospect of the Republic of Ireland hosting a round of the FIA World Rally Championship as early as 2025 is “looking good”, according to Aiden Harper, the President of Motorsport Ireland. 

Momentum – and confidence – is steadily building within the corridors of Motorsport Ireland HQ on Dublin’s Dawson Street to lure the competition back to the country for the first time since 2009. 

Ireland first featured on the World Rally Championship calendar back in 2007 and such was the positivity that surrounded it from promoters, competitors, the media and fans, it was ranked second best only to Rally Finland.

On both occasions, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb dominated to record two wins with Citroen Racing. 

Over the last number of months, Harper and other senior Motorsport Ireland representatives have been laying the groundwork, including writing to affiliated motor clubs and asking them to suggest possible locations for the service park where the event would be based out of as well as a media zone. 

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Harper has confirmed a decision on the next step is due to be announced this week, with a date of late summer high on the agenda in the hope of safeguarding settled weather whilst avoiding a clash with some of the country’s annual international meetings such as Donegal which runs over three days in June. 

“It is looking good,” said Harper when asked by the media for an up-date during the course of last Saturday’s Killarney Historic Rally, which was won by Carryduff’s Jonathan Greer by 3.7 seconds. 

“We are now down to three locations in Ireland that have the capability to host the service park, which is the nucleus of the whole World Rally Championship event. That comes on the back of us drafting a detailed programme and writing to clubs to see what availability they had in their area. 

2009 Rally of Ireland winners Daniel Elena and Sebastian Loeb
2009 Rally of Ireland winners Daniel Elena and Sebastian Loeb 2009 Rally of Ireland winners Daniel Elena and Sebastian Loeb

“The final round takes place this Wednesday evening after the annual Motorsport Ireland Awards lunch in Dublin and at that point we will be announcing where we will be going to with our plans. 

“The three areas we are down to is Limerick, Tralee and the south East – the Waterford area. Then we hope to make a decision either by the end of this week or next week of where WRC 2025 will go to in Ireland should we be successful for government funding, but we are where we need to be. 

“Obviously, we are working very closely with the Irish government in relation to the funding and once we are in a position where we can say, ‘Look, this is where we are going to anchor the event’, that is when we will get all of our local politicians and government representatives involved in it. 

“We need them to be part of the lobbying process because we are looking for a three-year deal with the World Rally Championship promoter and we can do it, we can deliver it,” added Harper. 

“We most certainly have the people who can make it happen and we are very passionate about it and once we get the funding that we require we will most definitely deliver an event come 2025. 

“We are looking at a date in August or September 2025 – we want to stay away from the rain – so fingers crossed we will get the funding but we have the people to do it who can make it happen.” 

The failure by Motorsport UK and Belfast businessman Bobby Willis with the support of DUP MP Ian Paisley to reinstate the British leg after many months of protracted negotiations appears to have played into Ireland’s hands. 

Central to Rally Northern Ireland not receiving the green light was the absence of a devolved government in Belfast meaning funding could not be drawn down to secure the rights to stage the event.