New Zealand will return to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time in a decade next year, but there’s no place on the 2022 calendar for an event in North or South America.
The calendar was approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Friday, with the proviso that “the WMSC pledged that as soon as the situation eases, the FIA World Rally Championship calendar must return to a more global presence beyond Europe.”
In addition to New Zealand (Sept. 29-Oct. 2), the other non-European events are Safari Rally Kenya (June 23-26) and Rally Japan (November 10-13). But Mexico, Chile and Argentina, which have all held rounds in recent years, are absent from a schedule which will see the 2022 WRC introducing the new breed of hybrid Rally1 cars as its headlining class.
The 13-round season begins with the Monte Carlo Rally, Jan. 20-23, and includes two events which were successful late stand-ins on 2021’s COVID-affected calendar, Rally Croatia (April 21-24) and Acropolis Rally Greece (Sept. 8-11).
In other tweaks, Rally Finland returns to a traditional early August slot, having run at the start of October this year to ensure spectators could attend. Rally Sweden, the WRC’s long-time snow and ice event, also returns in February after being temporarily replaced by Arctic Rally Finland in 2021.
“Next year marks the WRC’s 50th season and we have a calendar to match,” said Jona Siebel, managing director of WRC Promoter. “We’re delighted to welcome back New Zealand, a rally which first appeared in 1977. Although our plans to return in 2020 were unfortunately derailed by COVID-19, it’s fantastic we can now push through with those.
“The pandemic sadly brought the globe to its knees but as the world recovers, so too does the WRC,” he added. “We previously outlined our strategy for an equal spread of rallies between Europe and long-haul destinations and the 2022 calendar is a significant step towards that goal.”
A TBC date on Aug. 18-21 could be filled by an all-asphalt Rally Northern Ireland. If so, that ensures the UK maintains a presence on the WRC calendar, but in a major departure from the long-running format of forest-based events on the mainland. Northern Ireland is a stronghold of asphalt rallying and a potential WRC event has attracted widespread support from political and sporting bodies in the region.
The 2021 WRC season wraps Nov. 19-21 at Italy’s Rally Monza, giving the three manufacturers committed to Rally1 in its first season – Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport Ford – two months to finalize preparations for the hybrid category’s Monte Carlo debut.
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Monte Carlo Rally, Jan. 20-23
Rally Sweden, Feb. 24-27
Rally Croatia, April 21-24
Rally Portugal, May 19-22
Rally Italy, June 2-5
Safari Rally Kenya, June 23-26
Rally Estonia, July 14-17
Rally Finland, Aug. 4-7
TBC, Aug. 18-21
Acropolis Rally Greece, Sept. 8-11
Rally New Zealand, Sept. 29-Oct. 2
Rally Spain, Oct. 20-23
Rally Japan, Nov. 10-13