Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans believes future public support for the World Rally Championship could wane in the UK unless the country’s position within the series is resolved.

The UK last staged a round of the WRC in 2019; it was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and a funding shortfall last year meant plans to bring it to Northern Ireland by Belfast businessman Bobby Willis fell through.

Last Friday, following a World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris, twelve of the thirteen rounds for next year were revealed, with New Zealand, Croatia and Finland added to the 2022 line-up.

Elfyn Evans won Rally GB in 2017. Picture: M-Sport Ford

The August slot – which has yet to be ratified – was filled with the letters ‘TBC’. Despite this, WRC bosses and the FIA are known to be keen to bring the British round across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland next summer.

Willis was in Salou over the weekend for Rally Spain where further talks aimed at trying to get an agreement over the line are believed to have taken place.

He has the support of North Antrim MP Ian Paisley – the chair of the Northern Ireland’s Motorsport Taskforce – and Motorsport UK CEO, Hugh Chambers.

Various high-profile figures, including new M-Sport Ford signing Craig Breen and ex-Citroen Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Kris Meeke, have also come out to publicly back Willis’ proposal.

Evans has also spoken of his desire to see the Tarmac event get off the ground to safeguard the UK’s place in the series moving forward, but feels the ongoing uncertainty isn’t helpful.

Asked if he was frustrated by last week’s calendar news, and the absence of the UK on it, Evans said: “Yes. It is a massive loss for the calendar for one. No Rally GB is like a calendar with no Rally Monte-Carlo or no Rally Finland.

“The WRC is key for youngsters here because it helps to spark their interest in the sport”

Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Elfyn Evans

“Maybe I am a bit biased because I come from Wales. But, for me, it is one of the classics and a lot of drivers in the WRC enjoy it. Also, for UK motorsport in general, having a home round of the WRC is really key for youngsters coming through and to spark their interest in the sport.

“It’s a great shame,” added Evans, whose breakthrough win in the WRC came on home soil in 2017 as a DMACK M-Sport Ford driver. “A lot of my competitors have had a home round and have been close to winning it, or have won it. Thierry was so strong in Ypres [Belgium this year]. I’d like to think we could have been strong in Wales.”

Talk of Northern Ireland being a suitable base for a WRC round first surfaced in 2015 when the Circuit of Ireland Rally appeared on the FIA European Rally Championship roster.

Two years later Willis, along with Paisley and a delegation from Tourism Northern Ireland, travelled to Rally Spain to pitch their idea to WRC bosses. He has previously said that if he can pull it off, it would rank as his biggest achievement in the 50 years he has been involved with motorsport.

Rally GB has been a mainstay of the WRC calendar since the competition’s first season in 1973, with the exceptions of 1996 when it only counted for the WRC’s 2-litre class, and last year.

1 comment
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Get notified of the best deals on our WordPress themes.

You May Also Like

Verstappen set for UK rally bow

Jos Verstappen – the father of three-time Formula One World champion, Max…

Creighton: West Cork provides a ‘good benchmark’ for me

Moira driver William Creighton has ruled out a surprise result on the…

No home advantage in West Cork, says Cronin

Keith Cronin is predicting a “hard fought” battle on the Clonakilty Park Hotel…

“No substance” to suggestions Ford is leaving WRC – Millener  

M-Sport Team Principal Richard Millener has labelled suggestions that Ford Motor Company…