Rally New Zealand WRC return gets high profile backing
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The two most renowned world rally commentators are demanding Rally New Zealand return to the World Rally Championship calendar.
Autosport rallying editor David Evans joined the voice of rally Colin Clark's From the Kitchen Table podcast this week to discuss a range of topics at the midway point of the 2018 season including the talk around the future of the WRC calendar.
The WRC promoter Oliver Ciesla has hinted at expanding the calendar both in terms of the number of rallies as well as trying to make the championship less European dominant, with Japan and Chile tipped to make the 2019 calendar. Other events, including New Zealand, are pushing for inclusion in 2020.
In 2018 there are 14 rallies with all but three (Mexico, Argentina and Australia) in Europe.
"For me, we absolutely have to go back to New Zealand because it is part of our heritage – it was there in 1972 [when the WRC first started]," Evans told Clark.
"More than that, for me, New Zealand gave fantastic rallying. Incredible pictures – ok not so many fans but amazing pictures," Clark agreed.
"You could make a TV show out of that," Evans added.
New Zealand last hosted a round of the WRC in 2012. Organisers pushed hard for inclusion in this year's championship but were knocked back despite putting together a strong bid. At the time New Zealand was over-looked there was talk from teams that the costs of moving so much equipment that far from their European bases was too costly to support the initiative.
But Clark and Evans think proposed events simply need to come up with a little extra money to cover the costs of getting the factory teams to their events – around $1 million per event, which might not be unachievable.
"[Ciesla's] talked for a couple of years now about the calendar and his desire for perhaps 16 rounds and he has talked about this very easy to understand eight rounds down the centre in Europe [and the proposed East African Safari rally], four rounds down through the Americas and four rounds down through South-East Asia," Clark explained.
"A lot of us thought the teams wouldn't buy into it but he seems to have come up with a formula where the teams are partly funded to go to these farther-away events and it is coming together.
"No-one is going to invest in something they don't believe in. They now believe the World Rally Championship is a vehicle for them that is worth investing in."
Evans likes what Ciesla is hoping to achieve with the championship and feels there is a good mix of expansion while also protecting the championship's history.
"There was this great fear that we will follow Formula 1 and that we could ditch the Italian Grand Prix to go to Azerbaijan but we seem to have maintained an understanding that we need our heritage," Evans explained.
"We need Monte [Carlo]; we need GB [Great Britain]; we need Finland and they understand that and we are getting this mix."
The 2019 calendar will be unveiled in the next couple of months.
- NZ Herald